Langston Terrace Dwellings: Olney Frieze and Sculpture – Washington DC

Project type: Art, Sculpture and Bas Relief
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Langston Terrace Dwellings, opened in 1938, was the first U.S. Government funded public housing project in Washington and the second in the nation.  Initial funding came from the Public Works Administration (PWA); later the U.S. Housing Authority stepped in to complete the job.

The International Style complex was designed by African American architect Hilyard Robinson, a native Washingtonian. It embodies Robinson’s belief in the ability of fine buildings and art to inspire and uplift residents.

Langston Terrace is enhanced by its artworks.

Daniel Olney’s terra-cotta frieze, “The Progress of the Negro Race”,  lines the central courtyard and chronicles African American history from enslavement through World War I migration. An Olney sculpture, “Madonna and Children” is also found in the central courtyard.

Olney was most likely paid by the Treasury Relief Arts Program (TRAP), meant to support unemployed artists in the Great Depression.




Source notes

Treasury Department Art Projects, Bulletin No. 9, March, April, May - 1936, p. 15 (Google Books, accessed January 28, 2020).

 "Frieze Shows Progress of Race: Sculptured Figures to Adorn Entrance of Langston Terrace," Sunday Star, October 11, 1936, p. B-5 (accessed January 28, 2020). Note: This article, while informative, incorrectly reports Olney's work at Langston Terrace Dwellings as a Public Works of Art Project - a different, earlier New Deal art program.

Kelly Anne Quinn, "Making Modern Homes: A History of Langston Terrace Dwellings, A New Deal Housing Program in Washington, D.C.," dissertation, University of Maryland College Park, 2007, pp. 135-154 (accessed January 28, 2020).

"Langston Terrace Dwellings," DC Preservation League (accessed January 28, 2020).

 "Langston Terrace Dwellings, " National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, National Park Service, 1986-1987 (accessed January 28, 2020).

"Historic D.C. Housing Project Marks 75 Years," WAMU 88.5 FM, February 22, 2013


Project originally submitted by Brent McKee - on November 30, 2019.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

21 Street and Benning Road NE
Washington, DC 20002

Coordinates: 38.8996, -76.97314

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