Hampton Virginia New Deal Projects - Photo #57 - Aberdeen Gardens

Aberdeen Gardens historic site marker
Aberdeen Gardens historic site marker detail
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Historical marker on the property of the Aberdeen School, across the street from the community. “Aberdeen Gardens, built ‘by Negroes, for Negroes’ in 1934 as a model resettlement community for Negro families. It was the only such community in the United States designed by a Negro architect (Hillyard R. Robinson) and built by Negro contractors and laborers. Aberdeen Gardens is composed of 158 brick houses on large garden lots, a school, and a community store, all within a greenbelt. The streets, excepting Aberdeen Road, are named for prominent Negroes. Aberdeen Gardens offered home ownership and an improved quality of life in a rural setting. In 1994 this nationally significant neighborhood was listed as a Virginia landmark and in the National Register of Historic Places, through the efforts of former and current residents.” —Virginia Department of Historic Resources

The 440-acre Resettlement Administration worker community was sponsored by Hampton Institute, built in 1934-1937 and financed by the New Deal Subsistence Homestead Project, planned and designed by Howard University's Hilyard R. Robinson (1899-1986), supervising architect, with Louis B. Walton (1889-1973), consulting architect. Jesse R. Otis, also an African American, acted as program supervisor.[1]

“Aberdeen Gardens was established by Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal in 1934 as a model for housing following the Great Depression. Of the 55 similar areas in the United States, Aberdeen Gardens is especially significant because it is the only intact community built by blacks for blacks, many of whom were Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock defense workers. The original architectural plans, designed by Hilyard Robinson, included a school, multi-purpose building unit, community center, and tracts for 158 homes. The community center was never built, but several small stores occupied the shopping center across from Aberdeen School. Every prefurnished home was brick with an attached garage, indoor plumbing, a furnace, a porch, a very large yard, and a chicken coop.”[4] Initially, most of the Aberdeen Gardens residents were families of shipyard workers[1]. As of August 2017, there are no more chicken coops (that last one disappeared some time after 1994).

  1. Aberdeen Gardens, National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, OMB No. 1024-0018, March 7, 1994.
  2. Our Story, Aberdeen Gardens website.
  3. Tarrant-Reid, Linda, Aberdeen Gardens - Celebrates 75 Years, discoverblackus at Wordpress.com, May 28, 2012.
  4. Aberdeen Gardens Heritage Committee, Aberdeen Gardens, Arcadia Publishing Company, ISBN 9780738552927 (2007).
Photos by George and Connie Gilmer, taken May-August 2017.