The History of The Oldest Public High School in Montgomery County


Richard Montgomery High School is the oldest public high school in Montgomery County- opening in 1892 as “Rockville High School.” The school recently published a “history of Richard Montgomery” page detailing the school’s history. Principal Alicia Deeny, the school’s only woman principal in its 130+ year history told us, “While RMs history is a huge source of pride. Seeing our students in action every day gives me incredible hope for the future of our school and community. Our kids inspire me every day.” The history of the school can be seen below:

“Richard Montgomery High School has served as a special beginning for the tens of thousands of students who have walked its hallowed halls since it was founded in 1892. Located in the City of Rockville, it is the oldest public high school in Montgomery County and has served, over many years, as a keystone and partner in the fast-paced development of the city, as well as of Montgomery County. An allocation in 1892 by the then Board of School Commissioners of a $300 addition to the existing elementary school in Rockville brought to fruition the then named “Rockville High School” that served students from grades one to eleven. The first class of twelve seniors graduated in 1897.

Renovation and rebuilding are not new to Richard Montgomery High School (RM). In 1904, the Board of Education purchased land at the corner of Montgomery  Avenue and Monroe Street for the construction of a new school building, to be   renamed “Montgomery County High School” at Rockville. During World War I, the assembly room was used also as a community gymnasium, and thus began the close relationship between Richard Montgomery High School and the community that   exists to this day. As written in The Sentinel, “The Rockville High School is becoming more and more a modern community center.” RM has opened wide its doors and fields for innumerable community classes and activities. To many, RM also is known as the site where the July 4th fireworks were celebrated every year.

After the school was destroyed by fire in 1940, students attended other county high schools until November 1942, when they entered the new building at 250 Richard Montgomery Drive. This was the site of the old grounds of the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair, whose horse track became the football field and stadium, as well as the site for track and field–also used extensively by the Rockville and Montgomery County communities. One little known part of the history of the school grounds is that during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was afraid that Maryland would secede from the Union and that the District of Columbia would thus be bordered on both sides by Confederate states. He used the land of the fairgrounds for tents to maintain up to 10,000 Federal soldiers at a time in order to do his utmost to keep Maryland, especially via the major thoroughfare of Rockville Pike, within the Union.

Students came to the school by train, trolley, and later by school bus from all corners of the county. In 1935, when the new “Rockville Colored High School” building opened in Lincoln Park, the Board of Education officially renamed the old Rockville High School, “Richard Montgomery High School.” Following integration of public schools, Black students from Carver High School began attending RM in 1955. The school today  mirrors the Richard Montgomery High School from days of yore, as high school students from areas of Rockville and all points of Montgomery County make RM their home. Times have changed dramatically since RM first opened its doors. One has only to think of the difference between chalk and slate and the new Promethean ActivBoards to begin to understand the new world in which we live.

Richard Montgomery High School has evolved into a first class school in Montgomery County and Maryland, as well as in the entire United States.  It takes pride in being able to serve, with quality in the educational, social, and cultural fronts, its diverse student population, thus being its own small universe within the boundaries of Montgomery County. The school has been recognized as a Blue Ribbon School by the State of Maryland and by the United States Department of Education.  Richard Montgomery High School is also proud to be the home to a number of other successful programs, including International Baccalaureate Diploma Program,  Middle Years Programme,  Special Education Programs, English for Speakers of Other Languages Program, and  Advanced Placement and Honors Programs. RM has blended all of these programs into a unified and successful academic community.

Richard Montgomery High School has made it its mission to strive for excellence and to provide academic rigor; enable social and emotional growth; encourage a high level of performance; prepare students to engage in life-long learning; and promote unwavering support for the community which it serves. For the four years with which it is graced with the presence of its students, it strives to inspire as it also demonstrates that it is through hard work, vitality, and persistence that excellence is achieved. With our dedication ceremony today, we look forward to many more years of devoted  service to school and community that have been the hallmark of Richard Montgomery High School during its more than 120 years of rich history.”

Originally published on the Richard Montgomery High School website: Credit to: E. Guy Jewell, “Richard Montgomery High School.” The Montgomery County Story 24 (1981):1-11; The Richard Montgomery High School PTSA; Eileen McGuckian; The Montgomery County Historical Society; and Eileen McGuckian, Rockville, Portrait of a City. Tennessee: Hillsboro Press, 2001.

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