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History of Our School

Douglas MacArthur Elementary School: It all began with eight classrooms

Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, which was briefly known as the Chinquapin School during its construction, opened its doors in 1943 to accommodate the families of those recruited to work at the Naval Torpedo Factory during World War II.

It had eight classrooms and a common room. Desks cost $6 each. Teachers’ desks were $25.

The war drew thousands of workers to Northern Virginia to work in New Deal agencies, defense plants and the military, but there was a lack of housing. To address this, the Public Works Agency of the federal government created two housing developments in Alexandria: one at Chinquapin Village on the site of the current Chinquapin Recreation Center to house workers at the Naval Torpedo Factory, and one in Cameron Valley, located at the junction of Duke Street and Yale Drive to house Army Corps of Engineers workers.

The elementary school was built for children of these employees and for children living in the area off Janney’s Lane. Chinquapin Village children walked to school through Forest Park.

The school was integrated into the city’s public school system in 1947 and went on to educate all four of President Gerald R. Ford’s children, who lived nearby on Crown View Drive. First Lady Betty Ford was a regular volunteer at the school.