Named for Benjamin Banneker, the black surveyor who worked with Andrew Ellicott in surveying the District of Columbia, it was the premier black recreation center in the period during which municipal facilities in the district were segregated. Although it was not one of the centers selected for experiment in inter-racial recreation programs in the summer of 1949, it was among the first centers declared "open", or desegregated in the spring of 1954.
The tension between the Department of Recreation and U.S. Department of Interior in the late 1940s, moreover, parallels the ongoing issue of home rule for the District of Columbia, which has distinguished its political history. In terms of architectural value, the Banneker Center represents a utilitarian adaption of stylistic themes promoted from Colonial Williamsburg to the functional requirements of a public recreation facility. The Banneker's success as architecture lies less in formal or aesthetic qualities, and more in its utility, which has proved viable for 50 years and should continue to do so in the future.
Banneker Recreation Center was built in 1934. It is located in the limits of the Freedman's Bureau Subdivision, across from Howard University, and by its location, reflects its historic significance in Washington's black community. In 1942, it was chosen by the local black community for extensive renovation in order to serve as a year-round facility for black servicemen. During the war, Banneker served as a U.S.O. Club and a ROTC training facility for Howard University.
DC Inventory: December 18, 1985
National Register: April 28, 1986