Wilson’s entrances through the ages

Hadley Carr

Every Wilson Tiger has the glass entryway ingrained into their mind. The broken metal detectors and bustling lines are a quintessential Wilson experience. But if you were to talk to an alum from before 1970 they would look back at you bewildered.

When Wilson opened in 1935, students would ascend a large, encircling driveway to the grander, more conventionally-styled entrance. The doors, standing above the bleachers and overlooking the football field, welcomed students to their first period. Remnants of the driveway can be seen in the sidewalk that stretches from the pool to the auditorium. 

But since security was much looser than it is now, Wilson students were not limited to one official entrance—instead they could use any of the more than 30 doors on campus, with one rising to popularity: the Horseshoe Entrance. 

The front entrance that students use now was once a loading dock with doors on either side. The “Upper Horseshoe Entrance” was the entry that bordered the loading dock, while the “Lower Horseshoe Entrance” was the dock itself. 

Around 1970, faculty member Michael Durso, who would later become principal, suggested mandating the Horseshoe Entrance to then Principal Vincent Reed.

“[Durso] was always very interested in how the building ran and the physical nature of the building,” Instructional Coach and Wilson alumnus David Thompson explained. With more students commuting to school via public transportation, the Horseshoe Entrance was favored for its proximity to the metro and bus stops. 

For most of their high school career, Thompson and 11th Grade Assistant Principal Ronald Anthony entered through the Upper Horseshoe Entrance. But for a portion of their time at Wilson, this entrance neighbored the dumpsters in the Lower Horseshoe Entrance, making for a smelly start to the day. 

Throughout the 1980s security measures increased, but still, throughout Thompson’s four years at Wilson, there was only one security guard. He sat behind the window that allowed him to see students entering the building, and waited to spot a scene that was out of the ordinary. Security would increase as a result of a breach of safety less than a year later.

On January 26, 1989, four students were shot after the escalation of a cafeteria argument between a Wilson student and a man who regularly entered the building during lunch, but was unidentified by local newspapers. Images of Wilson’s flag pole and the injured students were broadcast across the evening news. This time, because of security reasons, the official, and only, main entrance was established. Over the years, the rest of the 30 doors at Wilson remained locked most of the time. 

Metal detectors were added at the Upper and Lower Horseshoe entrances, and the side doors were kept locked. Security measures were further heightened with the addition of X-ray machines in 1996 and in 2002 when alarms were added to exit doors.

For eight years, the main entrance remained the same until students were whisked away to the UDC campus in 2010 while Wilson underwent a renovation. Before the renovation, however, the Lower Horseshoe entrance—the loading dock—had turned into quite the social scene, with the addition of food trucks at lunch time. 

Since the renovation, the glass facade that all current students are familiar with has been the main entrance, accompanied by increased security. In 2012, the pool entrance was offered to alleviate long lines. 

  Long lines stretching out the one unlocked door fill the memories of students from the last decades. But lines neighboring the dumpsters and heading in through the loading dock fill the minds of the past. Before that, it was the memory of lines stretching down the driveway that encircled the football field. As the locations of the doors have been redone and readjusted, the final destination remains the same: Wilson High School •