Nixon-Mounsey House

This Art Deco style home served as a home base for civil rights activism in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Designed by William D. Nixon, a self-taught African American architect who was also a social and civil rights activist in DC, this private residence is a notable Art Deco style building in the Palisades neighborhood. The home is significant for both its connection to an individual and its architecture. While Nixon designed the home for his daughter, Ethel Nixon Mounsey, and her family, he also lived in the home from its completion in 1950 until his passing in 1962. During this time, he continued his social activism and organizational efforts targeted at dismantling segregation in the District.

Born to formerly enslaved parents Burrell and Martha in 1871, William D. Nixon lived a long life as an educator, activist, and community leader. Raised largely in DC, and a graduate of Miner Normal School, Nixon lived briefly in Detroit for employment purposes before moving back to the District and accepting a teaching job at one of the first public high schools for Black students: M Street High School (later Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School). During his teaching career, Nixon served as president of the Young Men’s Protective League, which promoted social and civic activities for young African Americans in the city.

Nixon also served on the board of directors for the Whitelaw Hotel and held leadership positions in the Civilian Defense Committee, Teachers’ Benefits and Annuity Association, and Association of the Oldest Inhabitants (Colored). Throughout his lifetime, Nixon launched and participated in successful campaigns to integrate the DC Fire Department and local restaurants—in addition to pursuing equitable housing for African Americans. His legacy as an activist, community leader, and spearhead for equality stretches across the District.

Remarkably, William D. Nixon’s home is one of a limited number of single-family residences in the District designed in the Art Deco style, specifically in the Streamline Moderne variation. Art Deco was more often used in the design of apartment buildings, of which there are numerous examples throughout DC. Appropriately, the nomination calls the home "a well-preserved architectural gem" and emphasizes its high integrity.

Today, the home continues to function as a private residence and a physical reminder of William D. Nixon’s powerful and unique legacy.

DC Inventory: March 24, 2022

Images