Following the election in 1846, Jefferson County became one of the first counties in Virginia to approve free schools for white students. Prior to that time boys and girls paid to attend private academies. The county was divided into 27 districts and school commissioners were instructed to build a school house in each district. Schools in Jefferson County remained segregated until the 1960s.
The Charles Town School District built a single story stone school on the northwest corner of Charles and North Streets. As enrollment increased the building was expanded to include a second story.
By the 1890s the school on North Street was not large enough. In 1893 the commissioners purchased the building which had formerly been headquarters for the Charles Town Mining, Manufacturing and Improvement Company. Located on the northwest corner of Mildred Street and Third Avenue, Charles Town Graded School provided needed additional space for the growing student body. Wright Denny from Amelia County, Virginia, was appointed as a teaching principal.
In 1912 Charles Town Graded School moved to a newly constructed building. The Charles Town Academy, founded in 1795, had closed its doors and the school board purchased the site located in the block bounded by Avis, Academy, Lawrence, and West Streets. Under Principal Wright Denny's leadership
both graded and high schools operated in this building.
As the number of high school students continued to grow, it became necessary to separate from the graded school. In 1922 the school board acquired the Timberlake property located in the block bounded by Congress, Academy, Charles, and Lawrence Streets. The high school moved to that site and in 1926 Dwight P. Hurley was appointed principal.
The student body soon outgrew the Timberlake house and discussion for a new school was initiated. The need became more urgent when a state official gave the existing school a low rating until both an adequate library and appropriate laboratory space were provided. A bond issue to build a new high school was overwhelmingly passed in 1928. The Timberlake house was demolished, and the new Charles Town High School opened on the same site in the fall of 1929.
In 1939, after 47 years of service, Principal Wright Denny retired and Charles Town Graded School was renamed Wright Denny Elementary School in his honor. In 1959 a new high school was built east of town on High Street, and the old high school building became Charles Town Junior High School
The closing chapter for these buildings was written in 1972. In May of that year Wright Denny Elementary was destroyed by fire. Jefferson High School opened its doors in the fall of 1972, and Charles Town Junior High moved to the old high
school building on High Street. When Wright Denny Elementary was relocated to the old junior high school building, all of the changes were complete.
[Photos of the various schools]