Posts Tagged Anacostia As It Was: Black Life in the Late 1800s

Excerpt on architecture styles, “Anacostia As It Was: Black Life in the Late 1800s, Part II”

1887 Hopkins _ Plate 41 _ Uniontown“As a consequence of unanticipated shifts in the economy and various social changes, the Uniontown project was not a success for its developers and in 1877 they went bankrupt. It was at this point Frederick Douglass moved to Anacostia — acquiring John Van Hook’s house from the bank he had been compelled to convey it to.

Architectural historians have observed that Uniontown homes built before 1877 were more elaborate than those built after 1877, the two extant examples of these earlier structures are Frederick Douglass’ residence at Cedar Hill and an Italianate villa at 1312 U Street, S.E. These historians theorize that certain design features of Frederick Douglass’ residence, built by Van Hook, influenced other construction throughout the area. “These features include the steep gabled roof associated with the Gothic Revival Style, projecting eaves and bracketed cornices of the Italianate Style and various aspects of the cottage ideal promoted by landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing.”

The drastic change in architectural style after 1877 and the Union Land Association’s bankruptcy leads these historians to suggest that perhaps the first intended market for Uniontown was not the working class but the middle class and only after the Union Land Association’s bankruptcy were sights lowered to the working class. If so, this may help explain why blacks and Irish were living in Uniontown in 1880 and also in 1900. [54]

The change in Uniontown architecture reflected the demographic components of its residents. Working class people had to be accommodated with smaller, plainer structures which make up most of the extant structures of Uniontown today. Uniontown architecture is marked by detached single-family housing as well as row houses and duplexes. A distinctive feature, however, is the number of would-be rowhouses or duplexes separated far enough from their neighbors to allow open space on all sides of the house.

The development of these new dwelling units was, in a sense, as significant as any stylistic change. they quickly became the prevalent housing types for Old Anacostia, and provided an opportunity for incoming residents to purchase their own homes where they could still live comfortably and also enjoy the advantages of attractive surroundings. [55]

There were three basic types of residential buildings in Anacostia by the 1880s — two types of frame (one with horizontal, and occasionally vertical, siding and the other covered with lath and stucco) and an infrequent brick. This was because brick was considerably more expensive that frame and so never really caught on in Anacostia which was, as has been noted, decidedly working class. Frame houses were decorated with Cottage Style, Italianate or Mansard details but overall in a much simpler fashion than was used for brick dwellings in the city.”



Anacostia Story Exhibit Records, Box 222; “Anacostia as it Was: Black Life in the Late 1800s” – Excerpt from thesis(?) by Marsha Greenleaf



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