Skip to main content
Four young boys stand on the sidewalk outside Barry Farm Dwellings. It’s a sunny day. The streets are lined with parked cars.
Click to view image attribution

Barry Farm Dwellings, 1944 Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division (LC-G613-45237) 

Division and Displacement

1940s

Welcome to the 1940s. During the World War II–era, Barry Farm–Hillsdale faced some significant changes. The construction of Barry Farm Dwellings and the Suitland Parkway displaced many residents and divided the neighborhood in two. There were new opportunities for work because of the war, but the community was restless because of segregation. 

Explore the map to investigate.

Map of Barry Farm–Hillsdale, 1945

Barry Farm Dwellings

At the start of World War II, the federal government needed additional workers in the nation’s capital to support the war effort. Washington, DC, was overcrowded, and White residents didn’t want African American workers moving into their neighborhoods. The National Capital Housing Authority planned to build a major housing complex for African American workers in Barry Farm–Hillsdale called Barry Farm Dwellings. Its construction would take land that was occupied by existing Barry Farm–Hillsdale residents.

Compare before and after images.

Left: Houses on Sumner Road, ca. 1941
Right: Sumner Road in 1966 The slider below allows user to reveal the image on the left or right.

What changes do you notice?
How do you think these changes impacted the community?

Read the story of a community member who was affected.
One of the residents displaced by the construction of the Barry Farm Dwellings was Cora W. Wilkinson, who was in her sixties at the time. Cora was the daughter of early settlers John Alfred and Mary Dunmore Green, who lived on Sumner Avenue. She married Richard Ulysses Wilkinson, a mail carrier, who lived around the corner on Nichols Avenue with his parents. After Richard died in 1939, Cora moved back to Sumner Road. She must have been distraught when she lost her house for the construction of Barry Farm Dwellings.

Thirty houses were condemned and demolished through eminent domain to build Barry Farm Dwellings. A total of 23 families were displaced. The National Capital Housing Authority rehoused 11 families, but the other 12 families were deemed ineligible for assistance. Among those displaced were families who had lived in Barry Farm–Hillsdale for generations.

The Suitland Parkway

During World War II, the U.S. military wanted to build a road to connect two military bases: Bolling Airfield (today Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling) and Camp Springs Airfield (today Andrews Air Force Base). President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote a letter to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson in 1942 ordering the creation of the road, called the Suitland Parkway. It was to be routed through Barry Farm–Hillsdale.

Compare before and after images.

Left image: Before the construction of the Suitland Parkway and Barry Farm Dwellings.
Right image: An aerial view of Barry Farm–Hillsdale after the construction of the Suitland Parkway (right) and Barry Farm Dwellings (left). The slider below allows user to reveal the image on the left or right.

What changes do you notice?
How do you think these changes impacted the community?

Hear from a community member who was affected.
“My parents lived at 1026 Sumner Road. The Chapman family had an enclave of property at the end of Sumner Road . . . that consisted of three properties. Then plans came for the Southeast (Suitland) Parkway, and we had to vacate. . . . You got something for it, but you know the government has eminent domain—and they say, you take this and go, you know what I mean? So you couldn’t stay there. You had to go.”

—Barry Farm–Hillsdale resident Kenneth Chapman

Oral history interview, March 27, 2002, Dale-Patterson Collection Oral Histories, Anacostia Community Museum

The construction of the Suitland Parkway destroyed nearly 100 houses and displaced more than 600 people. Residents were only given 20 days to vacate their houses. The government reimbursed families for their houses, but the amounts were pitifully small and not enough to pay for houses elsewhere in Washington, DC. Many of those displaced were too old to start the home-buying process again. The construction of the road also displaced or left behind hundreds of human remains buried in the Macedonia Cemetery, attached to the Macedonia Baptist Church.

Back to Top