According to Prologue DC’s Mapping Segregation research:
As Washington grew in the early 20th century, developers commonly sought to shape the character of new neighborhoods by including restrictive covenants (agreements) in deeds for the properties they sold. They might require that only single-family houses be constructed or that buildings be a certain distance from the street. They also might prohibit use of the property as a school, factory, or saloon―or prohibit its sale or lease to certain groups, most often African Americans.
Because deeds are legal contracts, homebuyers needed to pay attention to what they were agreeing to. Buyers who ignored a covenant risked being taken to court, and racial covenants deterred African Americans from moving into new neighborhoods. Covenants also targeted other groups, including Jews. In DC this was more common west of Rock Creek Park.
Starting in the 1920s, racially restrictive covenants also began to be imposed in another manner. Neighborhood associations would gather signatures on petitions that put covenants on the property of each signer, effectively restricting entire blocks. These petitions, which were filed with the Recorder of Deeds as legal contracts, could restrict whole neighborhoods, like Mount Pleasant and Bloomingdale.
Ray Middaugh’s firm Middaugh & Shannon was one such firm to include racial covenants it the deeds for many of the houses they developed, not only in their Park View subdivision but also in the houses they developed in nearby Bloomingdale and other neighborhoods where they were active. Park View, similarly to Columbia Heights, Bloomingdale, and other near in neighborhoods, began their existence as whites-only neighborhoods in close proximity to black communities. Like Middaugh & Shannon, many developers of these neighborhoods often included restrictive covenants in their deeds ostensibly to “maintain” the neighborhoods property values. At the time, it was widely believed that neighborhoods needed to be racially homogeneous to be stable. So widely held was this belief that the Federal Housing Administration institutionalized the practice in the 1930s. Read the rest of this post »