DC Community Group Fights for Historic Landmark Status for Barry Farm

Community activists in Washington D.C. hosted a walking tour of Barry Farm, a low-income housing complex, last Saturday to show visitors the history at risk of being lost.

D.C’s Housing Authority has already demolished 200 buildings that were a part of Barry Farm as the beginning of a redevelopment effort. This demolition displaced families from 444 units. The Housing Authority plans to bulldoze thirty-two remaining buildings at Barry Farm. However, Barry Farm tenants and community group Empower D.C. are seeking a historic landmark designation for the remaining structures. Residents say that the buildings are an important representation of a history that is not visible elsewhere.

Barry Farm’s history starts as far back as emancipation, as it was part of the first settlement created for African American ownership in D.C. by the Freedmen’s Bureau. Since then, Barry Farm has also been the home to Etta Mae Horn, a welfare rights leader, important plaintaiff’s in a companion case to Brown vs. Board of Education, and the go-go group the Junk Yard Band.

Empower D.C’s  executive director Parisa Norouzi said of the demolition plan, “we can’t continue to do what we’ve been doing, and lose our culture and our history one property by the next. We’re losing our soul in the process.”

Besides hosting the walking tour to raise awareness, Barry Farm tenants and allies presented their case to the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board in July. The board will decide whether to grant the property landmark status on September 26.