Your View: Ramsey Homes are key to Alexandria’s historic fabric

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By Charlotte Landis, Alexandria

To the editor:
I have lived in Alexandria for 26 years. It is my hometown and I love it because of its heritage. The Parker-Gray historic district nomination and the Braddock Metro small area plan emphasized the importance of protecting the historic fabric of this neighborhood. These actions clearly recognize the need to preserve its overall identity and architectural coherence. They support our city’s goal for historic preservation.

In 1781, the current site of the Ramsey Homes was part of a huge encampment along the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail. In 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the Lanham Act, providing federal funds to build low-cost housing for defense workers.

The Ramsey Homes were built with the Lanham Act monies. The project was designed by local architect and architectural historian Delos H. Smith. The local firm of Smith, Werner and Billings, with offices on King Street, was selected to work for the housing authority to build these important wartime housing units.

Sanborn maps describe the site as “a project constructed specifically for African-Americans.” The housing of African-American junior officers marks one milestone on the path to the U.S. Army’s desegregation in 1948.

This property has been listed as a contributing resource to the Uptown/Parker-Gray National Register Historic District and remains the oldest extant public housing in the Parker-Gray neighborhood. Historic preservation and historic districts have relevance in Alexandria and can only enhance the initiative by the Visit Alexandria tourism agency to promote African-American heritage tourism.

ARHA’s request for demolition of this site will destroy a key part of our neighborhood’s architectural, historic and cultural heritage. May city council remain wise and deny the request.

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