The heritage of WSS is set in the years around World War II when a group of individuals met in the attic of the Phillips Collection for lively discussion and debate about the rapidly evolving directions of art. Led by Law Watkins Sr, the group began taking on students and conducting studio classes in the “Studio House” located behind the museum. In time, the museum needed the Studio House space for the museum, and the group moved on to American University (AU) to develop the AU art department. In the early 1980s, sensing a loss of a unique visual arts education in the DC area, former AU faculty members and students along with other artists, founded WSS as a nonprofit institution in 1985. WSS held its 25th anniversary celebration in May 2011, honoring its long-time instructor Jack Boul.
Washington Studio School is housed in a 1909 townhome, located in DC’s historical district of Sheridan-Kalorama and designed by Nathan C. Wyeth, a premier architect in Washington, DC. Mr. Wyeth also designed the first Oval Office in the White House during the administration of President Taft, and the Old Senate and House Office buildings. Today, the front room on the ground floor and the second floor library of the 2129 S Street, NW townhome are two of the few remaining Wyeth interiors.
The Biddle family purchased the building in 1910 for their residence when in Washington, DC. It was owned and used by the Biddles until Holton-Arms (a private all girls school) purchased the townhouse in 1945 to serve as an adjunct to the Holton-Arms main building located at 2125 S Street, NW. Our second floor library room once served as the classroom for art history. Holton-Arms moved to Bethesda in 1967.