Barry Farm / Hillsdale: Past, Present, Future

On August 18, 2021 the DC Preservation League, in partnership with the DC History Center (dchistory.org), hosted a panel discussion about the historic Barry Farm Dwellings in Washington, DC.

Panelists included Sarah Shoenfeld (Moderator), Prologue DC, LLC; Alcione Amos, Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum; Dr. Amber Wiley, Rutgers University; and Parisa Norouzi, Empower DC.

A recent historic landmark designation preserved five aging buildings at Barry Farm Dwellings in Southeast DC. Filled with public housing until 2019, the rest of the complex was razed for redevelopment.

This program highlighted the rich history these buildings represent, including its recent preservation saga, from the Historic Preservation Office’s determination that the site was ineligible to the persuasion of DC’s Historic Preservation Review Board to landmark the buildings despite their poor condition. But we also looked to the future of the site, asking: what comes after a site has been landmarked?

On land occupied until the 1690s by the Nacotchanks (latinized to Nacostan/Anacostan), the federal government established Barry Farm/Hillsdale as a Black landownership community in 1867. Decades later, in 1941, the government took back a portion of this land to build public housing. The complex became home to momentous civil rights and antipoverty organizers and incubated DC’s emerging go-go scene. Today, it is fondly remembered by generations of Washingtonians and by recently displaced residents who hope to return to the new development.