Un/common Places

Dunbar Homes

Dunbar Homes

Paul Lawrence Dunbar Mutual Homes Association---that was the name eventually given to this settlement of row houses positioned along the hill at the eastern end of Kemper Road, in Arlington, Virginia. Originally built by the U.S. government to house war program workers and returning veterans of WWII, it has since gone on to house several generations of working-class people. In keeping with the popular practice of the day, the cooperative was named after a prominent African American historical figure of the time, the poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar, who was born to parents who had escaped from slavery and whose father was a veteran of the American Civil War.
"On an eleven-acre site overlooking Shirlington from Arlington’s Green Valley (Nauck) community, 86 African American households built a community dedicated to providing affordable housing to people locked out of the local real estate market because of their race. "Dunbar Homes" was a low-cost housing cooperative formed in 1949 by a group of black veterans and their families already living in the homes.
When the government decided to sell the development after the war ended, the black residents already living there wanted to stay and formed a non-profit housing cooperative to put together a bid, but could not obtain local funding. James A Hewitt, a white real estate broker in Washington, DC helped the Dunbar Association secure loan money from a New York bank, and also lent them the money for closing. The government accepted Dunbar’s bid of $264,000 and during the 25 years of its first mortgage, members paid $65 a month for a 2-bedroom or $72 a month for a 3-bedroom, plus a down payment. Because it was a cooperative, members bought in, they did not rent. Through these beginnings, a generation of people of modest resources built self-sufficiency and paid their own way."

Text originally obtained from The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington, Virginia
The Community Center at Dunbar Homes has served as the original meeting place of many churches and other organizations in the Nauck Community as well as recreational activities such as dances and movies throughout its history. It will be greatly missed. You can no longer see this icon of the Arlington Community as the whole complex has been torn down to make way for Shirlington Crest at Nauck.

Photos taken in 2006 by Terrie Jackson-Pitt