TALES OF TAKOMA • BY DIANA KOHN
The gentleman pictured here is closely associated with the wooded part of the Washington-McLaughlin property purchased by the City this week. His name was J. Enos Ray (more properly James Enos Ray, Jr), and his family once owned this land. He was a prominent Prince George’s County politician at the turn of the 20th century. When he sold the land to the Prince George’s County Schools for an elementary school, they proceeded to name it after him.
The Ray family was one of the large landowners in Prince George’s County. Their extensive domain was centered on the intersection of Riggs Road and Ray Road in Hyattsville. J. Enos Ray’s house stood where Ray Road on the site of today’s New Hampshire Avenue power station. (New Hampshire Avenue had not yet been extended from the District Line).
Born on Jan 12, 1874 in Chillum, J. Enos Ray graduated from Georgetown University Law School and was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1897. Elected to the Maryland State Assembly in 1904 as a Democrat, he rose to Speaker Pro Tem in 1906, and served one term as Speaker in 1908. He lost his bid for the State Senate the following year, followed by a lose in the hotly contested 1910 race for the Congressional fifth district.
He gave up on elected office and became state auditor and tax commissioner before assuming his most powerful role as chair of the Democratic State Central Committee. Ray held that position until he resigned for health reasons two months before his death on September 10, 1934.
Meanwhile, the J. Enos Ray Elementary School opened in 1929 for grades 1-8. Historic Takoma’s resident historian Dorothy Thomsen Barnes who attended first, second and third grades there, remembers neighbors building a footbridge across a small creek to create a shortcut for the students who walked. School additions were added in 1943 and 1947.
In those days there was no kindergarten in public school and parents convinced the Prince George’s school board to allow them to construct a private kindergarten, where Dorothy sent her own daughters.
By the 1960s, the school was in dire need of repairs, and the school board chose to close the school.
Enter Pauline Washington, who purchased the buildings and accompanying land. She incorporated her Washington-McLaughlin Christian school in 1985. By 1993, she was running the private school in the 1947 building and an adult day care center in the old 1943 building with plans to open eight senior housing. As of 2001 there were 159 students enrolled, which dwindled to only 30 by 2012. Today, only the daycare center remains open, and the city of Takoma Park is officially her new neighbor.