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Mayfair Mansions Apartments

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1942–1946, Albert I. Cassell. 3819 Jay St. NE.

Mayfair Mansions was designed by African American architect Albert I. Cassell and codeveloped with radio evangelist Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux with the encouragement of Eleanor Roosevelt while she was honorary chairperson of the Washington Committee on Housing. The development is historically significant because it was the first privately developed multifamily housing project to be insured by the Federal Housing Administration for occupancy by African American tenants. Prior to Mayfair Mansions Apartments, African Americans resided in housing that was significantly inferior to that available to white residents. This development established a new standard for Washington and the nation as a whole regarding the types of housing conditions that ought to be available for all Americans. It also reflected the stability, community, and power of the local African American community.  

The seventeen Colonial Revival garden apartments are organized around a long central common overlooking the Anacostia River. Only 18 percent of the 28-acre site was built on, with the tall, three-story, rectangular brick buildings facing one another across the mall. This arrangement of architecture within a suburban-like setting was in keeping with the progressive development of garden apartments during the postwar period.

Each of the buildings was three stories tall and had six entryways; each entryway provided access to six apartments. Most entry ways were five bays wide with a central doorway. Originally their gables were painted white to increase the historical allusions made by pedimented doorways, brick quoined corners, and regular, balanced compositions. As late examples of the Colonial Revival style, they show some influence of modernism, most notably tripartite windows and a planar wall-window relationship. The Mayfair Mansions Apartments displayed two types of roof treatments, including flat with a raised brick parapet and, more often, a broad gable slate roof.

Cassell, a native of Towson, Maryland, who had received his architectural education at Cornell University, graduating in 1919, had a long, prolific, and distinguished architectural career in Washington.

References

Reynolds, Arthur M., Sr., “Mayfair Mansion Apartments,” District of Columbia. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 1989. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee
Updated By: 
Vyta Baselice (2020)
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Data

Timeline

  • 1942

    Built

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Citation

Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, "Mayfair Mansions Apartments", [Washington, District of Columbia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/DC-01-SE11.

Print Source

Buildings of the District of Columbia, Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 279-279.

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