Mahaning Heights in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
From Gambling to Garden Apartments
A Self-Reliant People
—Greater Deanwood Heritage Trail —
If you had stood here 100 years ago, you might have heard the cheering crowds and thundering hoofbeats of Benning Racetrack just across the tracks to your right.
Beginning in 1890, Benning was the best-equipped race course in Washington. Some of the nation's leading thoroughbreds had their first runs on Benning's finely cushioned, sandy training grounds. Presidents and plumbers alike attended and placed bets, inspiring the Evening Star to declare: "Nowhere may such a cosmopolitan crowd be seen as at Benning."
In 1908 reform laws ended legal gambling at Benning. Nevertheless and despite the loss of the elegant grandstand to fire in 1915, horse training and automobile races continued into the early 1930s. Although Congress debated bills to revive betting, religious reformers and animal rights activists defeated them, and the race track closed for good.
In 1942 Howard University Architecture Professor Albert I. Cassell (1895-1969) purchased the old racing ground to build Mayfair Mansions, the expansive Colonial style apartment complex he designed. Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux, famed Washington evangelist and host of the CBS radio show "Happy Am I," became a major investor.
Mayfair Mansions opened in 1946, at a time when housing covenants severely limited options for African Americans. The complex provided 500 first-rate, affordable units to working- and middle-class families. Of the development, Elder Michaux said, "Some people talk about going to Heaven and living well. I believe
Mayfair Mansions, one of the city's earliest garden apartment complexes was listed on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
Long a Country Town at the edge of Washington DC's urban center, Deanwood was forged out of former slave plantations during decades following the Civil War. It became one of Washington's earliest predominantly African American communities.
Greater Deanwood today encompasses the historic neighborhoods of Deanwood, Burrville, Lincoln Heights, and Whittingham.
In the 1800s, much of Washington's development followed decisions made by city leaders and investors, who favored areas northwest of Anacostia. Land here remained relatively untouched, and many streets were unpaved into the 1960s. Because builders chose not to apply racial restrictions on who could buy here, African American migrants found Deanwood welcoming, affordable, and convenient. The pioneering National Training School for Women and Girls, founded by Nannie Helen Burroughs (whose portrait appears on each Deanwood Heritage Trail sign), attracted educators to the neighborhood. New residents often built their own homes and created communities where for years no one locked their doors, adults treated all children as their own, and children behaved accordingly. On this trail you will see rich parkland, handcrafted dwellings, and religious and social gathering places that have made Deanwood an oasis of dignity and self-determination for generations.
Location. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 4169 Minnesota Avenue NE, Washington DC 20019, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. “What Magic Has Been Wrought Here” (approx. 0.2 miles away); 100 Years of Afro-American History (approx. ¼ mile away); Eastland Gardens (approx. ¼ mile away); Designed to Compete (approx. 0.3 miles away); Fort Mahan (approx. 0.4 miles away); Shopping on Sheriff (approx. half a mile away); With These Hands (approx. 0.6 miles away); Lederer Gardens (approx. 0.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Mahaning Heights.
Also see . . . Mayfair Mansions/Albert Cassell, African American Heritage Trail. (Submitted on November 23, 2017, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.)
Categories. • African Americans • Architecture • Sports •
Credits. This page was last revised on September 14, 2018. This page originally submitted on November 23, 2017, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 120 times since then and 73 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on November 23, 2017, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. 4, 5, 6. submitted on August 18, 2018, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. 7, 8, 9. submitted on August 25, 2018, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. 10, 11, 12. submitted on August 28, 2018, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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