About the Barry Farm Neighborhood
The Barry Farm neighborhood is located off of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, west of historic Anacostia. The area is bounded by two arterial highways – Suitland Parkway on the east and Interstate 295 on the north. To the east of Barry Farm, across Suitland Parkway, is the Anacostia Metro Station and to the west is the St. Elizabeth’s West campus.
The Barry Farm neighborhood has a unique and storied history in the District. The neighborhood was originally part of James Barry’s farm, which extended from the Anacostia River to what is now known as Garfield Heights. In 1867, General Oliver Howard, Commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau, used federal funds to buy the 375-acre site and sold lots for $215 – $300 per acre to families of freed slaves and refugees from the Civil War, creating the first African-American homeownership community in the District. After working all day, the families would cross the Anacostia River and work by the light of bonfires to build their homes. Over the years, the community has been known as Barry’s Farm, Potomac City, Howardstown, and Hillsdale. Many of the streets in the neighborhood commemorate figures with central roles in abolitionism and the advancement of African-Americans in the Civil War era, including General Howard, Frederick Douglass, James Birney, Senator Charles Sumner, Representative Thaddeus Stevens, Edwin Stanton, and General Philip Sheridan.
By 1900, the Alexandria Branch of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad began to separate the original community from the river and Poplar Point. By mid-century, the land between the tracks and the river had been converted to military bases, and after World War II, the construction of Interstate 295 further isolated the neighborhood from the waterfront. In 1954, the Redevelopment Land Authority acquired much of the land as part of the Redevelopment Act intended to clear substandard housing, and built the public housing which makes up the Barry Farm neighborhood today.
The existing housing stock within the neighborhood includes a range of building and tenure types. The Barry Farm dwellings are owned and managed by the DC Housing Authority and contains 432 units of low-income housing. All of these units are townhouses arranged in buildings of four to six units.
One of the neighborhood’s greatest assets is the number of churches and their associated community services. These include Campbell AME, Matthews Memorial, Holy Temple, United House of Prayer, and others. Other churches exist within the historic Anacostia such as Bethlehem Baptist.