O'Brien Court HousesPhoto by the Alley Dwelling Authority, ca. 1937-1944. Source: Report of the National Capital Housing Authority, 1934-1944.
The Alley Dwelling Authority (ADA) funded the construction of the O’Brien Court Parking Lot in Washington, DC, ca. 1935-1938. The lot was located in the block bounded by E, F, 20th and 21st streets NW, on the E Street frontage. Then, in 1943, the ADA and the Federal Works Agency (FWA) created the O’Brien Court Houses on the same site. These houses were called “Standard Temporary Dwellings Units,” or “TDU’s.” They were built for African American national defense workers, and were intended to be taken down after the war.
It does not appear that any remnant of the homes or parking lot remains.
The ADA was one of the earliest New Deal initiatives to provide better housing for low-income Americans. It replaced unsafe alley dwellings in Washington, DC with more modern and affordable houses and apartments. The ADA existed from 1934-1943 as a federally controlled special authority. It then slowly evolved into today’s DC Housing Authority, an independent agency of the DC Government.
During the earliest years of its alley clearance activities, the ADA also created five facilities for auto repair or parking. The O’Brien Court Parking Lot was one of those. Then, with advent of World War II, the ADA was enlisted to help the FWA create housing for national defense workers (using Lanham Act funds). The O’Brien Court Houses was one of these projects.
Report of the National Capital Housing Authority, For the Ten-Year Period 1934-1944, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1945, available on Hathitrust (accessed July 14, 2020).
Report of the Alley Dwelling Authority for the District of Columbia, For the Fiscal Year July 1, 1936 – June 30, 1937, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1937, available on Hathitrust (accessed August 15, 2020).
Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on August 16, 2020.
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