Langston Terrace Dwellings

The first federally-sponsored public housing complex in the District, and a prime example of the first 51 Public Works Administration housing projects, built from 1933 to 1937.

The first of eight housing projects by noted Bauhaus-trained architect and pioneer in government housing for the poor; International style garden apartment buildings around central commons; base-reliefs and courtyard sculpture.

A major feature is the terra-cotta frieze which adorns the
arcade entrance. Entitled "The Progress of the Negro Race," it depicts a series of Black family groups being led by the prophetic likeness of John Mercer Langston. The first vignette shows downcast figures against leafy crops. Further along in the sequence are healthy and proud characters holding tools and books. An industrial smokestack and a schoolhouse loom in the background. Finally, at the end of the work is a three-dimensional mother with two small children at her feet. Perched
on a shelf, the madonna appears to reinforce the themes of the PWA housing program that placed much emphasis on family unity and progress. Commissioned by the Treasury Art Program (TRAP), Dan Olney sculpted a representational treatment of the significant, but neglected, theme of rural to urban migration by American Blacks. A separate group of five large animal figures grace the central common area. Composed of cast, reinforced concrete the frog, walrus, sea lion and pair of cubist horses continue to provide durable non-mechanical entertainment.


Built 1935‑38, Hilyard Robinson, architect
DC designation September 16, 1987
National Register listing November 12, 1987

Images

Map

21st Street & Benning Road, NE