Two landmarks of black history in the District have been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places by city officials.
If the two buildings -- The Phyllis Wheatley YWCA at 901 Rhode Island Ave. NW and the Thaddeus Stevens School at 21st and L streets NW -- are added to the National Register, they will be eligible to receive renovation grants from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The Phyllis Wheatley YWCA has already applied to that department for a $62,000 grant. According to Cirtie Mae Turner, association president, that would cover half the estimated cost of rehabilitating the brick building. The four-story building, built in 1920, contains dormitory rooms for girls, recreation space and meeting rooms.
The oldest YWCA in the District, the Wheatley branch -- named for a black poet brought to Boston in 1761 on a slave ship -- was started in 1905 by members of a black women's literary club. The group used buildings on Maryland Avenue SW and on T Street NW until its own building opened in 1920. The new building was financed in part by the War Work Council.
During World War I, members of the Wheatley YWCA met black travelers at Union Station and tried to help them find places to stay. In the 1920s, the biracial Council of Social Workers organized lunch meetings to trade ideas on race relations. Since few restaurants would serve blacks, the group met at the Wheatley YWCA. During World War II, the YWCA provided services to black soldiers who were barred from the USO centers.
Today, according to Turner, the YWCA provides housing for student, counseling and a variety of recreational and educational programs.
The Thaddeus Steven school, still in use as a public school, was built in 1868 for the education of black children. It was the third such school constructed in the District and is the oldest one still standing.
The brick, building, which has been extensively altered and added to over the years, was named for Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, a leader of the antislavery forces in the House of Representatives and champion of free schools for all children. Through Stevens was white, he chose to be buried in a black cemetery in Pennsylvania as a protest against segregated cemeteries.
Both buildings already have official landmark status in the District and are protected against demolition.