Preservation League Plans to Add More Black History Sites to DC’s Inventory

by Nena Perry-Brown

Last week, the DC mayoral administration announced an online "heritage trail" of African American Civil Rights sites. Concurrently, the DC Preservation League (DCPL) is endeavoring to add more sites relevant to the 20th century Civil Rights movement to the DC Inventory of Historic Sites (IHS) and the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). 

The DCPL sites were selected in partnership with Prologue DC, preservation architect Nakita Reed and scholar/author Chris Myers Asch via grants from the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The sites and their histories will be compiled into a National Register Multiple Property Document (MPD) for submission to the Historic Preservation Review Board, and later to the NRHP; the draft list was released earlier this month. 

There are over 100 locations on the list, as well as dozens of addresses listed for buildings which no longer exist, but were of historical significance. Several of the houses which remain, however, have been the sites of pivotal actions, efforts, or people in the struggle to end housing segregation and give voice to Black self-determination.

One of those is the house of civil rights activist and former DC delegate to the House of Representatives Walter Fauntroy at 4105 17th Street NW (map). Fauntroy's work included helping to coordinate the 1963 March on Washington, helping secure home rule for DC, and grassroots organizing for urban renewal in Shaw.

Once-segregated cooperative housing at 2008 16th Street NW. Click to enlarge.

1131 Fairmont Street NW (map) once belonged to Geneva K. Valentine who was an advocate for housing integration in the 1940s. Another site on the list is the residential building at 2008 16th Street NW (map), which was a whites-only building Valentine purchased in 1949 in order to enable Black residents to move in.

The residences of Italian-American real estate brokers Raphael & Joseph Urciolo at 4215 Argyle Terrace NW (map) and 1624 Underwood Street NW (map) are included. The Urciolos are known for flouting racial convenants in Bloomingdale and were party to lawsuits as a result; they were also real estate law professors at Howard University. The Argyle Terrace house was designed by Howard University architect Howard H. Mackey, and several meetings with civil rights attorney Charles Hamilton Houston and others about housing segregation took place at the Underwood Street house.

One-time residence of prominent Black attorney Charles Hamilton Houston. Click to enlarge. 

Houston, who was also a dean of Howard University Law School and the litigation director of the NAACP, resided at 3611 New Hampshire Avenue NW (map) during the height of his work in racial convenant suits, including Hurd v. Hodge; his house is already on the African American Civil Rights Tour. Another location on the Tour is 1269 Sumner Road SE (map), where National Negro Congress (NNC) leader Thelma Dale resided; Dale produced the NNC's report on segregation in DC's recreation spaces in 1939.

Some other houses did not necessarily have big names attached to them, but were the sites of tragic incidents when restrictive housing convenants were more prevalent. While residing at 2205 Flagler Place NW (map), Lawrence Prince's family was visited by a white mob in 1923; the house is now a contributing building to the historic district. In another racially-restricted area, the family of Edna M. Holland saw their house at 1324 Harvard Street NW (map) bombed in 1940.

A full list of the sites slated for nomination is available here.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/preservation-league-plans-to-add-more-black-history-sites-to-citys-inventor/16169

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