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Women and children clean up a grassy patch near Barry Farm Dwellings. They use poles to pick up trash and place it in trash cans.
Click to view image attribution

Clean-up day at Barry Farm Dwellings, 1966 DC Public Library, Star Collection, © Washington Post 

Growth and Overcrowding

1960s

Welcome to the 1960s. This era saw tremendous changes in Barry Farm–Hillsdale. Local residents organized to fight for civil rights and improvements in living conditions. Changes in zoning led to single-family houses being replaced by multi-family apartment buildings. Many new residents moved into Barry Farm–Hillsdale from other parts of the city, and the neighborhood became more densely populated.  

Explore the map to investigate.

Map of Barry Farm–Hillsdale, 1945

Housing Changes

In the 1960s, the city changed the zoning for much of Barry Farm–Hillsdale from single-family houses to apartment buildings. By 1970, more than 75 percent of residential land in Anacostia and Barry Farm–Hillsdale was zoned for apartment buildings, compared to just 20 percent in the rest of the city. Property developers took advantage of this change to construct larger apartment buildings in the neighborhood.

Hear from a community member who was affected.
Ethel G. Greene moved to Howard Road around 1888. In 1975, she gave an oral history interview in which she denounced the creation of the “overcrowded community, without having planned for it.” She was adamant that many of the buildings that had contributed to the overcrowding had to be torn down and that one-family detached housing should be built to give people the “chance to indulge in a little home ownership . . . where you can grow and plant.” She had a yearning to go back to a neighborhood with fruit trees and vegetable gardens.
Read an excerpt from a report describing the changes.
“The housing profile of the Anacostia area has changed disastrously in the last ten (10) years. An area that was once populated by one family housing has now changed into a conglomeration of apartment houses multiplying as a cancerous growth, devouring all available land and straining the very fiber of the area inorder [sic] to support the growing population inadequately.”

—“Statement of Community Problems,” Southeast Neighborhood House and Southeast Neighborhood Development Program, September 1968

The changes in zoning led to a steep decline in homeownership and a much more densely occupied neighborhood. Owner-occupied single-family homes with gardens and orchards were replaced by low-rent and public housing apartment buildings. An acre of land previously occupied by just one house was now occupied by as many as 60 apartments.

Demographic Changes

In the 1960s, many White residents moved out of Anacostia for majority-White suburbs in a process known as “White flight.” In 1950, more than 82 percent of Anacostia’s population was White. By 1967, only 37 percent of the population was White. White flight opened up other neighborhoods to African American residents. Many people moved out of Barry Farm–Hillsdale and new residents moved in from other parts of the city.

Hear from a community member who was affected.
“Well, you see, there weren’t many people out here . . . [in the 1940s]. Anacostia has grown in the last 20 years more than 50%. Before then, there were mostly single-family homes. Now they have come along and put up apartments that will house from 20 to 30 families on a spot that used to have one house on it. Then they have high-rise apartments and an over-abundance of public housing. The influx of people here has been tremendous over the last 20 or 30 years, and things have gotten out of hand.”

—Barry Farm–Hillsdale resident Almore Dale
Oral history interview, Anacostia Oral History Project, Anacostia Community Museum Archives

Many Barry Farm–Hillsdale residents left the neighborhood for the suburbs or other parts of the city that were integrating. There was an influx of new African American residents from Southwest Washington, DC, and other parts of the city that were being redeveloped. Barry Farm–Hillsdale was absorbed into the larger Anacostia neighborhood and lost its unique character.

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