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John Handley High School was built in 1922. The building’s original architecture embodied the Progressive Education Movement, in which the school building itself was often viewed as a teaching tool.

This project is a multi-disciplinary project linking architecture, history, and education. The halls of this high school will become an interactive museum that high school students will walk through each day. This project allows the building’s history to be tangible, with exhibits on the walls linked to an online curriculum. The first of these installations is the Gallery of History and Art, which houses reproductions of works of art from the Corcoran Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C.

The historical connection between John Handley High School and the Corcoran Gallery of Art is an interesting one. During World War II, the Corcoran’s director decided to move the Corcoran’s most valuable pieces of art to a remote location, away from Washington and the risk of enemy attack or looting. The museum chose John Handley High School in Winchester, a remote, rural city 70 miles away, in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. World-renowned paintings by artists such as Degas, Rembrandt, and Whistler were secretly moved to a vault in the school’s basement. For the duration of the War, the vault and its contents were protected by armed guards, who took shifts around the clock. During this time, only three people in Winchester knew of the Corcoran’s secret. The students and teachers were completely unaware of the national treasures hidden in the basement’s vault. With the installation of this project, the high school’s intriguing history and the Corcoran’s national treasures can be appreciated by all students, jocks and nerds alike.


  • Reader & Swartz Architects, PC, Winchester, VA
  • Owner: Winchester Public Schools, Winchester, VA
  • Graphic Designer (exhibit): Water Street Design, LLC, Winchester, VA
  • Images courtesy of: Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Image reproduction (of Corcoran artwork): Color-Ad, Inc., Manassas, VA
  • Architect of Record (for renovation of High School): VMDO Architects, Charlottesville, VA
  • Project Manager (for renovation of High School): Howard Shockey & Sons, Inc., Winchester, VA
  • Photographer: Water Street Design, LLC, Winchester, VA