Washington was founded in 1923 as the first public African American Graded and High School in Raleigh. The school opened in the fall of 1924 and in the years since the first brick was laid, the building has served a diverse group of students as a high school, a combination middle and elementary school, a 6th grade center and currently an elementary gifted and talented magnet school. In 2003, Washington School received designation as a Local Historic Site by the City of Raleigh's Historic Preservation Association. Washington was added to the National Register of Historic Landmarks in 2005.
The building's facade has remained unchanged, however the interior has undergone extensive remodeling. A new Kindergarten wing and Ready to Learn Center were completed in 1996. A Math and Science Courtyard, construction of a new cafeteria, and interior renovations were added in 2003.
Since its inception in 1982, Washington Elementary has received numerous distinguished awards throughout the years including: North Carolina School of Excellence, the Governor's Entrepreneurial School Award, Magnet Schools of America School of Distinction and Excellence designation, and the Dr. Ronald P. Simpson Award as best magnet school in America. Washington School continues to thrive as an educational institution with a rich history and a proud legacy.