Mayfair Mansions

Mayfair Mansions Apartments is a garden apartment complex located on the site of former Benning Race Track in the northeast sector of Washington, D.C.

The 28 acre parcel lies between Hayes and Jay Street, Kenilworth Terrace and the Anacostia River. Albert I. Cassell, the black architect who designed Mayfair, conceived a park like setting, siting the 17 buildings of the complex on angles about a central common mall space. The buildings occupy only 18 percent of the 28 acres of developed land. The remaining property is given over to the mall, wide courts interspersed among the buildings and broad landscaped areas. Children's play areas were also included in the complex's plan. The suburban-like setting of Mayfair Mansions Apartments is in keeping with the progressive development of garden apartments in the city during the post-war period. Newspaper articles contemporary to the completion of Mayfair Mansions Apartments favorably compared the development to McLean Gardens and Naylor Homes, two garden apartment complexes of extraordinary housing quality.

Mayfair Mansions Apartments is significant because it is the first privately developed multi-family housing project to be insured by the Federal Housing Administration for occupancy by black tenants. Its significance is further magnified by the fact that it was conceived and designed by a black architect, Albert I. Cassell and developed by two black men for black occupancy at a time when housing in the District of Columbia for blacks was in critically low supply and significantly inferior to housing for whites. By making FHA design and construction standards available to black occupancy, Mayfair Mansions Apartments significantly improved the housing conditions of blacks in the District of Columbia and the Nation by showing that blacks could, in mass, economically support and meet FHA underwriting criteria and standards, hence opening the door for making FHA housing available to blacks nationwide. Mayfair Mansions Apartments became a pioneering model through which the public policy of inferior style and materials for black citizens was eventually abandoned.


Built 1942‑46, Albert I. Cassell, architect
DC designation May 17, 1989
National Register listing November 1, 1989

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Map

Kenilworth Avenue, Jay, and Hayes Streets, SE