Named for Benjamin Banneker, the Black surveyor who worked with Andrew Ellicott in surveying the District of Columbia, the Banneker Recreation Center was the premier Black recreation center in the period when municipal facilities in the District were segregated.
Although it was not one of the centers selected for experiment in interracial recreation programs in the summer of 1949, it was among the first centers declared “open,” or desegregated, in the spring of 1954.
In terms of architectural value, the Banneker Center represents a utilitarian adaption of stylistic themes promoted from Colonial Williamsburg to the functional requirements of a public recreation facility. The Banneker’s success as architecture lies less in formal or aesthetic qualities, and more in its utility.
Banneker Recreation Center was built in 1934. It is located in the limits of the Freedman’s Bureau Subdivision, across from Howard University, and by its location, reflects its historic significance in Washington’s Black community.
In 1942, it was chosen by the local Black community for extensive renovation in order to serve as a year-round facility for Black servicemen. During the war, Banneker served as a U.S.O. Club and an ROTC training facility for Howard University.
The Center was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 28, 1986.