Aberdeen Gardens Historic District
The Aberdeen Gardens Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2012, The Gombach Group.
Aberdeen Gardens was a Roosevelt Administration era planned community, designed specifically for the resettlement of African-American workers of the Newport News and Hampton area, who were living in substandard housing. Begun in 1934 and finished by 1937, this unique 110-acre subdivision consists of 158 single family homes and proposed a school, commercial and community center, and a church, all surrounded by a greenbelt area for subsistence and truck farming. In addition to the Colonial Revival houses, one of the preexisting vernacular farm houses, purchased from the Todd family, became a resettlement residence. The project, sponsored by Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) and funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Division of Subsistence Housing (later transferred to the Resettlement Administration), was planned and designed by Howard University's Hilyard R. Robinson (1899-1986), supervising architect, with Louis B. Walton (1889-1973), consulting architect. Jesse R. Otis, also an African American, acted as program supervisor.
Aberdeen Gardens was the first homestead community in the United States to be constructed for black residents under the New Deal. It was the only such community designed by a black architect and built by black workers under the control of a black construction superintendent. Begun in 1934 under a grant for the Department of Interior, Aberdeen Gardens soon came under the auspices of the Farm Security Administration, and stood largely completed by 1937. This 440-acre subdivision eventually contained 150 single-family dwellings, a school and a commercial center. Building lots were large, to allow for truck gardens and small livestock. A surrounding greenbelt separated Aberdeen Gardens from its white neighbors. The brick dwellings were designed to be traditional in appearance and modern in function. The streets were named for "respected and distinguished local Negroes." Although the community was expanded in the 1940s and 1950s, and many of the earlier dwellings have undergone modification, the appearance, circulation patterns, and ambiance of the district retain a high degree of integrity. Aberdeen Gardens remains a historical symbol of African-American pride, occupied largely by original homesteaders and their children and grandchildren.
† John B. Salmon, historian and Marc C. Wagner, architectural historian, Virginia Department of Historic Resources, nomination document, 1993, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.