East of the Anacostia River near the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, sits Eastland Gardens, a neighborhood built by and for African Americans. Carved from the site of a former racetrack in 1927 and far removed from the urbanized city, the platted subdivision held little appeal to White buyers. But, the developer, Howard Gott, knew that African American residents, who were shut out from many of the city's closer-in residential neighborhoods, were in desperate need of new, quality housing and would be less deterred by the far-flung location. So Gott seized the opportunity and marketed the lots for sale to African Americans.
Between 1927 and the early 1950s, sixteen different Black architects and seven different Black builders had designed and built the majority of the 167 houses constructed in Eastland Gardens. To begin with the houses were much like those in other middle-class neighborhoods featuring Colonial and Tudor Revival-styles, American Foursquares and Craftsman bungalows. By the early 1950s, however, Eastland Gardens was showcasing a high concentration of Mid-Century Modern houses. One architect in particular, Robert Madison, a former student of Modernist Walter Gropius at Harvard, and a professor at Howard University School of Architecture with a private practice in DC, introduced the neighborhood’s first Mid-Century Modern houses and inspired something of a trend.
The houses designed by Robert Madison in Eastland Gardens are distinguished by their low-profile, one-story massing, broad and low-pitched gable roofs with overhanging eaves, inset entry porches, expansive use of windows, and a variety of materials and textures like brick and pierced concrete screen walls, and wide slab chimneys of rough-cut ashlar stone.
Robert Madison only stayed in DC for a few years before returning to his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio around 1956 where he ultimately ran one of the largest and most successful Black architecture practices in the nation. In a 2021 interview, Madison, at the age of 98, noted that his DC buildings are especially meaningful to him as they were the first ones of his career to have been built.The following houses in Eastland Gardens all reflect Modern design:
- 1121 42nd Street NE, 1953 (no architect identified, but likely Robert Madison)
- 1221 42nd Place, 1953 (no architect identified, but likely Robert Madison)
- 4101 Meade Street NE, 1954 (Howard Mackey, arch)
- 1010 42nd Street NE, 1954 (Robert Madison, arch)
- 4001 Lane Place NE, 1954 (Robert Madison, arch)
- 4010 Lane Place NE, 1954 (Robert Madison, arch)
- 4020 Lane Place NE, 1955 (Robert Madison, arch)
- 1224 42nd Place NE, 1955 (Robert Madison, arch)
- 1228 42nd Place NE, 1955 (Robert Madison, arch)
- 4250 Marne Place NE, 1954 (Robert Madison, arch)
- 4025 Meade Street NE, 1955 (Robert Madison, arch)