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MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Alexandria, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

James Bland Homes

 
 
James Bland Homes Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014
1. James Bland Homes Marker
Inscription. Funded by the U.S. Public Housing Administration and built by the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority (ARHA) between 1954 and 1959, the James Bland Homes was Alexandria's fourth public housing project, and it more than doubled the city's stock of racially segregated public housing units intended for its African American citizens. Alexandria's public housing emerged from an effort to improve substandard or "slum" housing associated with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal of the 1930s. Many felt that the slums contributed to high crime rates and posed serious public health problems. The James Bland Homes project was preceded on the site by a World War II era federal Public Housing Authority trailer camp established in 1943 for African American residents of properties condemned during a 1941 program of slum clearance in downtown Alexandria. The establishment of the James Bland Homes required the condemnation of 57 parcels in a n area known as "the Hump." Many residents of this historically integrated working class neighborhood fought to preserve or receive fair compensation for their homes.

The design of the James Bland Homes, typical of public housing projects of the period, was influenced by the Modern Movement and included minimal decorative elements and the use of mass-produced construction materials. Joseph
James Bland Homes Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014
2. James Bland Homes Marker
Henry Saunders Jr., as student of Walter Gropius and a prolific architect in Alexandria in the 1950s, was the designer. The orderly and open layout of the complex featured courtyards, circulation networks, and recreation areas inspired by the Garden City and Garden Suburb movements of the early 20th century and was designed to contrast to the perceived chaos of the slums that he public housing replaced. The Samuel Madden Uptown public housing, similar to the James Bland Homes, was built in 1945 to the west of N. Patrick Street.

"...when I lived in Bland the people that I knew were very happy to be there. The was a lot o camaraderie. We thought the accommodations were great. People watched out for people's houses. There were times when we didn't lock the door. It was a very folksy neighborhood." —James E. Henson Sr., form oral history recordings owned by the Office of Historic Alexandria.
 
Erected by Wetland Stuudies and Solutions, Inc and Bowman Consulting with support from the Alexandria Archeaology Museum, Office of Historic Alexandria.
 
Location. 38° 48.859′ N, 77° 2.846′ W. Marker is in Alexandria, Virginia. Marker can be reached from the intersection of North Alfred Street and Montgomery Street, on the left when traveling north
James Bland image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014
3. James Bland
The public housing was named for James Alan Bland (October 12, 1854 - May 5, 1911), an African American musician and songwriter born to a free family in Flushing, New York. Bland graduated from Howard University in Washington D.C. in 1873.

He composed over 700 songs, including "In the Evening by Moonlight," "O Dem Golden Slippers," and "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," the official State Song of Virginia from 1940 until 1997.
Close-up of photo on marker
Illustration from"James Bland's 3 Great Songs, 1879
. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Alexandria VA 22314, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Hump: Open Lots For Blocks (here, next to this marker); The Memorial Pool (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Robert Robinson Library -1940 (approx. 0.2 miles away); Parker-Gray High School (approx. 0.2 miles away); War, Rails, and Wells (approx. 0.3 miles away); Colross-Alexandria's Urban Phoenix (approx. 0.3 miles away); Alexandria Canal (1843 - 1886) (approx. 0.3 miles away); Washington-Rochambeau Route (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Alexandria.
 
Categories. African AmericansCharity & Public Work
 
James Bland Homes Building Type D (1959)<br> 901-91 North Patrick Street image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014
4. James Bland Homes Building Type D (1959)
901-91 North Patrick Street
Close-up of photo on Marker
James E. Henson Sr. image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014
5. James E. Henson Sr.
Mr. Henson at the age of 17, moved into James Bland Homes with his family in February 1954, soon after it opened.
Close-up of photo on marker
Nina Tisara/Living Legends of Alexandria
Aerial Photo, 1964 image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014
6. Aerial Photo, 1964
The James Bland Homes encompassed 194 public housing units located within Parker-gray Historic District on five city blocks bounded by First Street, North Columbus Street, Wythe Street, and North Patrick Street.
Close-up of photo on marker
USGS March 1964
Arlington Virginia,<br> FSA Trailer Camp Project for Negroes,<br>Single Type Trailer; April 1942 image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014
7. Arlington Virginia,
FSA Trailer Camp Project for Negroes,
Single Type Trailer; April 1942
The James Bland Homes project was preceded on the site by a WWII era Public Housing Authority trailer camp established in 1943 for African Americans displaced by urban renewal in downtown Alexandria.
Close-up of photo on marker
Library of Congress, Virginia FSA
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on March 17, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,096 times since then and 146 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on March 17, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
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