Blagden Alley/Naylor Court Historic District is one of the few remaining intact examples of Washington, DC's characteristic alley dwelling phenomenon. Alley dwellings were small houses situated on alleys behind large homes that faced the main streets. They often shared the alleys with workshops, stables, and other accessory buildings. During the Civil War's severe housing shortages, alley housing was one of the few options available to poor and working-class residents. Interracial in the beginning, alley dwellings were predominantly African American by the turn of the 20th century.

In 1880, 64 families lived in Blagden Alley — all African American. The typical Blagden Alley home had four rooms with a small back yard, a water pump, a privy, and a shed. Stables and businesses were added to the alleys later. Hidden from the main streets, alley dwellers often formed supportive communities. From the outside, however, alley communities were seen as unsanitary and dangerous Most were torn down by 1955 after the Alley Dwelling Elimination Act was implemented by Congress in 1934.

Blagden Alley and Naylor Court remain intact due to community activism during the 1980s. They are home to the DC Archives, Office of Public Records, which occupies a former stable, and a number of small businesses and shops. They were listed on the DC Inventory of Historic Places in 1990.


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