HAMPTON, Va (WAVY) – From Military bases to the Cavalier Hotel and Attucks Theatre, Hampton Roads is filled with locations on the National Register of Historic Place. 

One location many are not familiar with is the Aberdeen Gardens Neighborhood in Hampton. It’s a historic neighborhood built for and by African Americans in 1934 and remains intact.

Seven streets make up the community just off Aberdeen Road. This unique place is a 440-acre subdivision that was a result of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Settlement. 

In 1934, Hampton Institute secured $245,000 to build 158 single-family homes, gardens, schools, and a commercial center in the subdivision. The planning, design, and construction were all completed by African Americans.

“We weren’t afraid to do anything in here. We could walk the streets late at night knowing that everything was safe,” said Margaret Wilson, President Historical Foundation of Aberdeen Gardens. “They took care of each other. If a mother was sick, we didn’t worry about the kids, because the mother next door grabbed the kids.” 

Margaret Wilson has a special connection to Aberdeen Gardens. Her grandparents were one of the first families to move into the neighborhood and she grew up on Russell Rd. 

Wilson says each house was made with tender care and handcrafted bricks. The three to five-room houses included a garage, a great room, and a bathroom.

Doctors, teachers, day laborers, and African Americans from all walks of life lived in the neighborhood. Bernadine Vann and her husband Andre Vann decided to move into the community in their early 20s. 

“The neighbors were very friendly,” said Bernadine Vann. “The children up and down the street. And you felt much safer during that time.” 

Wilson and Vann want to preserve the history of the country’s first planned African American community. One challenge the community faces is not having a covenant to maintain uniformity and the character of the brick homes.

While the Historical Foundation maintains a close relationship with the city, members want to make sure this area never loses its heart and soul.

“I’d like to get more young people involved,” said Wilson, “to learn this history so this place is not forgotten.”

“It’s so much history it makes you proud to be association with the community,” said Vann.

Aberdeen Gardens Historic Museum continues to host tours by appointment only.