The famed Maret School at 3000 Cathedral Avenue in Woodley Park was founded as a French school for girls in 1911 by Louise Maret, a teacher born in Switzerland and educated in the United States. Success was immediate in Washington, and by 1923, the school was able to raise funds, expand, and commission the Tudor Revival building at 2118 Kalorama Road, seen here. The Maret School expanded again, admitting both boys and girls, and in 1952 moved into the Key mansion and its seven acre estate coined ‘Woodley’ that continues to serve as their campus.
Louise Maret established the school with the aim to “procure for American students a complete course of studies including preparation for college, music and art, with the added advantage of acquiring a through knowledge of the French language.” Speaking French while at school was required as soon as the pupil mastered the elements of the language. When it was located on Kalorama Road, the High School, for girls, included boarding and day departments, with a complete academic course and college preparation. The Lower school was a day school open to both boys and girls, with a complete course in studies and French beginning in the first grade.
The school building at 2118 Kalorama Road was built in 1923 with 25 “sunny and airy” rooms in close proximity to Rock Creek Park for recreation purposes. Offered at the school was tennis, basketball, skating, riding, playground games, football, baseball, folk dancing for girls, and swimming, which was held at the Shoreham Hotel swimming pool. According to a 1930 school program, the building itself featured “specially designed windows for scientific ventilation” in addition to a gymnasium, library, assembly hall, dormitory rooms, and roof top garden and playground.
The school provided automobile transportation for day students as early as 1930. School plays were given by students twice a year in the assembly hall, and the school published a magazine coined “Hand in Hand,” or “La Main dans la Main.” However, “no social clubs or secret societies” were permitted at the school! School tuition fees in 1944 ranged according to class, from $200 a year for first grade, to $400 per year as a junior or senior. Hot lunches were served at $50 per semester, as was milk and crackers at recess, for $7.50 per semester. Additional fees were charged for use of the laboratory, piano, athletics, art, dramatics, and graduation exercises.
The school greatly expanded and changed by 1952, when it moved into the ‘Woodley’ estate on Cathedral Avenue, which it had purchased some years earlier, and became a coeducational, college preparatory school. Philip Barton Key, the uncle of Francis Scott Key, had bought the 250 wooded-acre estate in 1797. In 1803, he built Woodley, the Federal style house on the hill that would later become home to a number of statesmen, including U.S. Presidents, Secretaries of War, and General George Patton. Its last resident owner was Henry Stimson, Secretary of War during the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, who helped direct the American war effort from the study, which is now the school’s library computer room. For one hundred and fifty years, the woods, parks, and vistas of Woodley provided a quiet retreat for politicians and presidents.
Copyright Paul K. Williams