During the Civil War, many escaped and freed slaves traveled north seeking refuge in Union camps. Thousands crowded into the Federal City. The number of refugees quickly overwhelmed the area’s resources. Overcrowding and disease became prevalent. In response to the unhealthy, crowded conditions that developed in and around the District of Columbia, the federal government selected in May 1863 a site on Arlington Heights to build housing for the freed slaves.
A planned community was envisioned that would provide freed slaves with clean housing and opportunities for work, job training and education. Known as the Freedman’s Village, the community was located on a portion of the Custis/Lee Plantation, which later became Arlington National Cemetery. The village was constructed rather quickly and was formally dedicated December 4, 1863. It became a model for other such communities. Eventually more than 50 two-story duplex houses, two churches, a school, a meeting hall, a hospital and a home for the aged and infirm were built around a central green space. In time, the village’s population exceeded 1,000. Though the village was intended to be temporary, residents stayed until the late 1890s. By 1898, Freedman’s Village officially was closed. Its residents were asked to relocate and were offered parcels of land and monetary incentives. Many remained in the Arlington area and developed their own communities, such as Arlington View, Nauck and Queen City, among others.
Marker: Civil War Trails