Corrected: Generations of sanctuary. The Pendleton Street Rooming House.

Corrected: Generations of sanctuary. The Pendleton Street Rooming House.
1022 Pendleton Street. Credit: Corrine Jackson Lee Dixon

In the June 29 Alexandria Times, the story “Generations of sanctuary” incorrectly referred to the property at 1022 Pendleton St. as a Green Book property. Though it served a similar purpose, it was not officially in the Green Book. The Times regrets the error.

By Thompson Eskew 

In 1917, John Jackson purchased the property at 1022 Pendleton St., on the corner of Henry and Pendleton streets, to house both his family and host his business. He lived there with his wife, Corinne, three daughters and son.

After Jackson had acquired a license to use the building as both a bakery and a rooming house for other tenants, the Henry Street portion of the house became a bakery. The new business earned him the nickname “Baker,” by which he became commonly known in the community.

The Jackson children attended high school both in Alexandria at Parker-Gray High School, which was the city’s first secondary school for Blacks, and also at Dunbar High School in D.C. – the first public high school for Blacks in the United States, according to its website.

Jackson ensured the unfaltering relevance of this property for Alexandria’s Black community for over a century by recognizing the service his building could provide. He opened multiple bedrooms for rent to other Black families who traveled to the area but could not find hotels that would rent to them during the Jim Crow era.

From the 1930s to the passage of Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s, Blacks traveling throughout the U.S. would often rely on annual guides that provided lists of businesses in each city and town that did not discriminate against them. This guide was named the Green Book after its founder Victor Green.

The Green Book served as an indispensable guide for travelers searching for homes that offered lodging, known as tourist homes.

“They have places listed in practically all of the states. There are some towns with just two or even one [tourist home], and then there are some towns that would have eight or 10. There is no clear pattern regarding the north or south,” according to Alexandria Living Legend Lillian Patterson.

Not surprisingly, there were many more Green Book options in large, northern cities than in southern locales.

“Chicago, for example, looks like it might have 15 or 20 hotels, plus a couple tourist homes, restaurants, beauty parlors, barber shops, taverns, night clubs, service stations. All of that is in Chicago, as compared to a place like Alexandria with just two tourist homes,” Patterson said.

Although the Pendleton Street property provided this service to Blacks who were looking for a room to either rent long term or simply stay in for a few nights, the 1947 edition of the Green Book only included two tourist homes in Alexandria, at 803 Gibbon St. belonging to J.T. Holmes and 724 Gibbon St. under the name J.A. Barrett.

While the 1947 edition of the Green Book did not include the Jackson property, the building that Jackson bought and maintained for his family and business is well-known today for housing travelers during this time.

The property’s rooming house provided Green Book style housing to notable guests such as the founder of the Nation of Islam Elijah Muhammad and other prominent African Americans who were traveling through the area, such as the famous jazz pianist Duke Ellington.

Magnus Robinson, a former Grand Marshal of the Universal Lodge #1, was a guest at the Pendleton Street property. A local celebrity of the early 20th century among Black Americans, Robinson would host important meetings concerning the welfare of the Black community in his room.

Jackson’s rooms also played host to meetings, political debates and Emancipation Day celebrations.

Jackson maintained the bakery and his rooming house until his death on Feb. 16, 1949. The ownership of the property then transferred to his daughter Corinne Jackson Lee Dixon, who was named after her mother.

Although the portion of the building that previously housed the bakery was rented out as a beauty salon after Baker Jackson’s death, Dixon maintained the rooming house. She continued to provide Green Book style housing to travelers into the 1960s. She also rented rooms to low-income Blacks.

Prior to her ownership of the Pendleton Street property, Dixon married Emmett Cornelius Lee, her first husband, in 1946 and pursued a career in real estate. Dixon became a successful businesswoman and worked hard to give back to her community.

Janice Lee Wardlaw Howard, daughter of Corinne Dixon and granddaughter of Baker Jackson, praised her mother’s legacy of giving in Alexandria.

“She did a lot for Alexandria. My mother never talked about it. She helped a lot of people through school, along with my grandmother who owned the restaurant in Alexandria on Carlton Street,” Howard said.

After the death of her first husband, Corinne married Urquhart Oliver Dixon. She maintained ownership of the property on Pendleton Street until her death in 2015. Dixon survived her parents, two husbands, siblings and her son Emmett C. Lee Jr.

Prior to her death, Dixon shared ownership of the house with her daughter, who now maintains the property at 1022 Pendleton St. The house continues to provide lodging to low-income Blacks to this day.

The property recently received its first funding from City Council, having just been granted $1.2 million from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act grant and an additional $750,000 from the City of Alexandria in a unanimous decision on June 13. These funds will pay for renovations to help preserve the building.

The city reached out to Howard as she was exploring potential renovations, having previously made the repairs herself. She is adamant that her tenants not be dislodged while renovations take place.

“The distribution of the funds is through the city,” Howard said. “I will select a contractor after they send me a list of contractors and then the city will manage every- thing. The city is saying renovations will last one year. The house is still being occupied. We have low-income tenants.”

It is currently unknown whether the funding provided by the ARPA grant and the City of Alexandria will be enough to complete the necessary renovations, as a contractor has yet to be selected.

“From what the architect has said thus far, this is the budget that the City’s architect came up with. I know they did their due diligence, then they came back with their proposal. As we sign a contract with the city, then we’ll know more as we go on,” Howard explained.

Through three generations of ownership – during the Jim Crow era and since the passage of Civil Rights legislation – the building at 1022 Pendleton St. has been a haven to Black Americans. The City of Alexandria and Dixon are working to preserve the property, and thus continue Baker Jackson’s legacy of providing lodging for low-in- come Blacks, into perpetuity.