Modern Hillcrest

Modern Hillcrest: Mid-Century Modern Neighborhoods Tour

Along a stretch of a very steep Hillcrest Drive in the Hillcrest neighborhood of southeast DC rise eight tall and striking two-story Mid-Century houses. The houses, with their rigid geometric forms and features, perch incongruously atop the rugged hill.

These eight houses, built in 1964 at the height of the steep incline of Hillcrest Drive SE, have exceptional views northeast to a ring of hills that once supported several of the city's Civil War defenses. Hillcrest Drive, more of a meandering country lane than city street, was part of a residential subdivision laid in 1930 by the Overlook Development Corporation. While many of the lots at the lower end of the drive were built upon within the first decade of the subdivision's development, those at the height of the hill remained undeveloped for years.  

In 1964, Johnson Bros. Corporation purchased the eight remaining lots and seized the challenge to develop them with houses. To do so, the firm hired Black architect Yettekov Wilson, who appears to have embraced Modern design early in his career. Born in Kentucky in 1927, Wilson came to D.C. in 1950 to attend Howard University School of Architecture. After completing his degree in 1955, Wilson went to Cleveland, Ohio where he worked for his former Howard professor Robert Madison at his firm, Madison & Madison. After two years with Madison & Madison, Wilson came back to DC and began working for Bernard Frishman, Associates who, by then, was ensconced in the design of contemporary ranch-style dwellings for mid- to large-scale residential neighborhoods in Montgomery County. Wilson appears to have struck out on his own by the mid-1960s, when he designed several notable custom houses in the city, including a few in Crestwood (4231 and 4245 Matthewson Drive NW) and North Portal Estates (1921 and 1925 Spruce Street NW and 1720 Redwood Terrace NW) as well as this group of two-story speculative houses in Hillcrest at 2901-2927 Hillcrest Drive SE. The Hilcrest houses are particularly striking for their geometric massing, wide eaves, side entries, and expansive use of glass. 

Little is known about Wilson, but those buildings that are credited to him contribute notably to the city’s database of Mid-Century houses.