By Nancy Pickard
Nestled between Rock Creek Park and Twinbrook Parkway, Edwin W. Broome Junior High School has become a familiar landmark in Twinbrook. Broome opened in September 1957, at a time of explosive school-age population growth, to serve students from rapidly growing postwar developments south and east of Rockville’s commercial center. Designed by local architect Rhees E. Burket Sr. of Silver Spring, the school’s innovative and modern styling remains visible today providing an intact example of the many modern schools constructed in Rockville during this period.
School construction in Montgomery County reached a fever pitch during the postwar period when the number of public schools increased from 65 in 1945 to 144 in 1965. In Rockville, school construction barely kept pace with new residential development, as the housing boom in neighborhoods such as Rockcrest, Twinbrook, and Hungerford brought steady streams of school-age children. By 1952, overcrowding at Rockville Junior High School necessitated the construction of a new junior high in the Rockville area. Subsequently, “South Rockville” Junior High School was slated for construction on a large parcel of land, lying between Rock Creek and the planned residential subdivision of Twinbrook Forest. The Montgomery County School Board hired architect Rhees Burket to design the building and in the summer of 1956, they accepted the plans and officially named the school in honor of past School Superintendent Edwin W. Broome.
A noted architect in the Metropolitan Washington Area, Burket planned schools to fit changing educational techniques. He designed over forty area schools during his career and received recognition for several of his pioneering projects. By 1955, when Burket designed Broome, he was well known in Montgomery County for his earlier local projects, including collaboration with Howard Cutler on Richard Montgomery High School in 1942 (demolished).
Burket’s design for Broome embraced progressive ideals and changing trends in education and made use of contemporary construction techniques and materials. Built of concrete, brick, metal and stone, the school has long corridors arranged around two interior courtyards, which allows for increased circulation and a varied learning environment. Continuous bands of awning windows and glass block run the length of the school’s front and rear facades and the streamlined design is enhanced by a flat roof and one-story entry portico.
With the exterior essentially unaltered to date, Broome retains a strong horizontal profile with elements of the International Style. Contrasting stone adds texture and color to the building while keeping architectural distractions to a minimum; the result is a highly stylized modern design that blends harmoniously with its surroundings.
Facing declining school enrollment the School Board closed Broome in July 1981. Since that time, the building has been home to a number of county agencies and community groups. The future fate of Broome is uncertain, as it faces a possible return to active educational use.