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Gonzaga College High School
Private college-prepartory day school in Washington, D. C., United States
Gonzaga College High School, originally Washington Seminary, is a Jesuit high school for boys located in Washington, D.C. It is named in honor of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, an Italian saint from the 16th century. Gonzaga is the oldest boys' high school in the District of Columbia and also the oldest college in the original federal city of Washington.
Gonzaga was officially founded by Fr. Anthony Kohlmann, a Jesuit, in 1821, though there is some evidence the school began a few years earlier. It is the oldest educational facility in the original federal city of Washington and was at first called Washington Seminary, operating under the charter of Georgetown College (now Georgetown University), which was becoming too crowded for its space at the time. Gonzaga's original location was on land offered to the Society of Jesus by William Matthews on F Street near 10th Street, N.W., in a building adjoining Saint Patrick's Church. The purpose of this school was to train seminarians, but soon after opening, it began admitting lay students. The school was immediately popular among Catholic families and was well enough known in its early years to attract the attention of President John Quincy Adams, who visited the school to test the boys' Latin and Greek. However, there were financial problems that caused the Jesuits to withdraw in 1827: their order prohibited the charging of tuition at a day school for youth. It continued to be run by laity until the Jesuits returned some twenty years later (with the ordinance regarding tuition changed); President Zachary Taylor presided at the commencement exercises in 1849.
In 1858, Gonzaga was granted its own charter by Congress as a college empowered to confer degrees in the arts and sciences, which accounts for its name (Gonzaga College) to this day. Although some students did receive bachelor's degrees in the 19th century, Gonzaga no longer confers degrees, other than honorary doctorates presented to commencement speakers or other notable guests. In 1871, the school moved to a building (now called Kohlmann Hall) in a neighborhood called Swampoodle located just north of the U.S. Capitol. It was located on the same block as St. Aloysius Church - built in 1859 and now on the U.S. Register of Historic Buildings with a high Roman Catholic population surrounding it. Enrollment declined owing to the distance of the new neighborhood from the center, but the Jesuits persevered and by the end of the 19th century the school was once again flourishing. A theater was built in 1896 and a large new classroom building (previously the Main Building and now called Dooley Hall) was opened in 1912.
John Gabriel Smith, Gonzaga's first African-American graduate, entered the school in 1951. He wanted to prepare to be a priest and none of the schools for black children offered the necessary prerequisites, including Latin. When he decided to try out for the varsity football team, the school was unable to schedule games against public schools, which were still segregated at the time. He was ultimately prevented from playing by an injury. He graduated in 1954.
The curriculum of Gonzaga from its founding until the late 20th century was at once rigorously classical and emphatically Catholic. Mastery of Latin and deep involvement in the Catholic religion were at its core. Standards were high, and many hopeful boys who lacked the necessary qualities for success were denied admittance. To this day, Gonzaga admits approximately one third of those who apply.
Gonzaga benefited greatly from the fact that the row houses built in Swampoodle were largely occupied by Irish Catholics from the late 19th century on. Although Gonzaga always drew students from other parts of the city as well, the departure of the Swampoodle Irish for the suburbs in the mid-20th century, and more especially their replacement by poorer non-Catholics, brought on another period of difficulties. A decline in enrollment and the great inner-city riot of 1968 led some to suggest that Gonzaga should be closed, or moved to a more affluent area. However, the Jesuits once again persisted and the school survived. In the last years of the 20th century Gonzaga expanded, adding several new buildings and a large playing field and field house. By 2007 Gonzaga had regained its former status and a Wall Street Journal editorial referred to it as "the premier Catholic high school of Washington."
St. Aloysius is a parish church physically attached to Gonzaga through the entrance building Dooley Hall. The church was built in 1859. It is used for Masses, concerts, some school assemblies, and graduation. The large painting above the altar is the work of Constantino Brumidi, famous for painting the frescoes on the interior of the United States Capitol dome.
The Gonzaga soccer team won four consecutive WCAC championships from 2007 to 2010, and is consistently one of the best teams in the Washington area. They added additional championships in 2012, 2016, and 2017, beating national powerhouse DeMatha Catholic in each.
Gonzaga rugby has won 12 consecutive Potomac Rugby Union Championships and finished the 2010 season ranked #2 in the nation. In the middle of the 2011 season, Gonzaga beat the #1 ranked team in the nation and rival, Xavier, and became the #1 team in the nation. During the 2011 National Championship in Salt Lake City, Utah, Gonzaga finished 3rd. The Eagles won the High School Rugby National Championship in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018.
The Gonzaga crew team won the Stotesbury Cup Regatta on the Schuylkill River, Philadelphia in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. Runner up years include: 2009, 2017, and 2018.
Out of the past 17 seasons (2000-2016) Gonzaga Cross Country has finished in first, second, or third place in the WCAC Championship race every time. The team won the WCAC championship in 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012. Additionally, in 2010 the Gonzaga Cross Country team won the "triple crown" with first-place finishes in the WCAC Championship, the MD/DC Private/Independent Schools Championship, and the Jesuit Championship. The Eagles XC squad has won the Jesuit Championships in 1987, 2002, 2009, 2010, and 2016. The team also added their first victory at the DC State Championships during the 2016 season. 2016 marked another milestone for Gonzaga Cross Country. The JV Boys team managed to complete the "triple crown", winning the JV WCAC Championship, the JV MD/DC Private/Independent Schools Championship, and the JV Jesuit Championship.
Varsity 2 hockey won their respective Mid Atlantic Prep Hockey League (MAPHL) "A" league in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Varsity 1 hockey won their "AA" division in 2017 and 2018. Gonzaga is the first school in MAPHL history to have a back-to-back sweep of both divisions in two consecutive years. In the 2018-2019 season, Varsity 1 defeated Spaulding 5-1 to win their third straight MAPHL AA championship, a huge accomplishment for a team with two freshman goalies that year.
Buchanan Field is the home field for football and lacrosse and also serves as the practice facility for rugby, soccer and track and field. The Carmody Center hosts basketball and select wrestling matches. Old Gym is the wrestling home match site. The Fort Dupont Ice Arena hosts ice hockey games. Gravelly Point is the home grounds for rugby matches and Long Bridge Park is the home facility for soccer games. The game and practice venue for baseball is located at the Washington Nationals Youth Academy.
^ abcdBracken, Matt (February 20, 2008). "ADVERTISEMENT Big game forged Haynos' path to pros". The Baltimore Sun. Traditionally, Gonzaga had a strong record of producing Division I football players. The program has even sent a few to the NFL, most notably Roman Oben, a 12-year veteran and member of the 2002 Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, former Notre Dame standout and NFL wide receiver Malcolm Johnson and most recently, ex-Terps defensive back and current Houston Texans safety Curome Cox.