Courtesy Dale/Patterson Family Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Dianne Dale
Welcome to Barry Farm–Hillsdale
This historic African American community in Southeast Washington, DC, was created by the Freedmen’s Bureau in 1867. It served as a home for refugees who fled slavery during the Civil War. Residents built their own homes as well as churches and schools, and the community flourished.
Community members played important roles in the struggles for women’s suffrage, civil rights, welfare rights, and many other causes.
Over the years, a series of actions by the local and federal government, as well as private developers, demolished the neighborhood and displaced its residents. The character of the community changed, and its identity was absorbed by the larger Anacostia neighborhood. Today, it has all but disappeared.
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The historic neighborhood of Barry Farm–Hillsdale is located in Southeast Washington, DC.
Today, it is bordered by the Anacostia River and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling to the west, the neighborhood of Anacostia to the north, the neighborhoods of Fort Stanton and Buena Vista to the east, and St. Elizabeths Hospital to the south.
The area’s original inhabitants were the Nacotchtank, who lived in villages and towns along what is today known as the Anacostia River. In fact, the word “Anacostia” is a corruption of the word “Nacotchtank.”
European explorers first came into contact with the Nacotchtank in the early 1600s. At that point, their villages stretched from Giesboro Point, today within the Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, to a place near Bladensburg, Maryland. By the end of the 1600s, the Nacotchtank had lost most of their land and were forced to move away from the shores of the river.
The name “Barry Farm” comes from the Barry family, who owned much of the land in the area from the early 1800s to the 1860s. The Barry family also owned enslaved people who worked on their farm.
After the Civil War, the area was resettled as an African American community. Many residents were uncomfortable with the name “Barry Farm” because of its association with slavery.
In 1873, residents succeeded in getting an act passed to change the neighborhood’s name to “Hillsdale” for the many hills and dales in the area. However, the new name was not officially adopted and never appeared on official maps of the area.