The Historical Foundation of Aberdeen Gardens was founded out of the Aberdeen Gardens Historic and Civic Association, Inc., for the purpose of preserving, restoring and maintaining Historic Aberdeen Gardens.
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A New Deal model resettlement community built between 1933 and 1938, Aberdeen Gardens was once a slave plantation in Elizabeth City County (now known as Hampton), Va. After emancipation, many freedmen purchased plots of the land on which they had toiled, and continued their work as farmers. When new employment opportunities arose with the establishment of the Newport News Shipyard nearby, many stopped farming and sold their land. Shipyard employment drew many African-Americans from outside the peninsula area to nearby African-American communities. Overcrowding eventually turned the communities to slums.
These slum conditions, which African-American shipyard workers were forced to inhabit, led to the establishment of a model resettlement community in Aberdeen. The project was the first and only New Deal model resettlement community designed and built by African-Americans. Architect and Howard University professor Hilvard R. Robinson designed the community, and it was built by African-American contractors and laborers. Dedicated in 1937, Aberdeen Gardens consisted of 158 brick houses on large garden lots, a school and a community store. Near the end of World War II, Aberdeen tenants were allowed to purchase their homes.
Today, Aberdeen Gardens remains a stable middle-class neighborhood where many descendants of the original families still live in the historic homes. In February 1994, Aberdeen Gardens was designated a historic landmark by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Three months later, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The 158 homes that stand today are in varying states of disrepair. The $50,000 HGTV Restore America grant will enable the Historical Foundation of Aberdeen Gardens to move forward with the most urgent repair needs, including roof replacement and window repair.
"From homes and schools to sacred sites and neighborhood shops, communities like Aberdeen Gardens provide a tangible link to the people and events that have shaped our country," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "Through our partnerships with HGTV and PARADE, we hope to continue to work with cities and towns across the nation to preserve the physical reminders of our past, which are essential for creating a sense of place, as well as instilling civic pride and community spirit."
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