The Mayfair Mansions apartment complex represented a significant development in fair housing for African Americans.
Mayfair Mansions, built between 1942 and 1946, was designed by Albert I. Cassell, a Black architect who conceived of a park-like setting, citing 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.
Mayfair Mansions Apartments is significant as 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, Cassell, and developed by two Black men for Black occupancy at a time when housing in the District of Columbia for Black communities 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 Black residents in the District of Columbia and the nation by showing that Blacks could economically support and meet FHA underwriting criteria and standards, hence opening the door for making FHA housing available to Black Americans nationwide. Mayfair Mansions Apartments became a pioneering model through which the public policy of inferior style and materials for Black citizens was eventually abandoned.
DC Inventory: May 17, 1989
National Register: November 1, 1989