Susan G. Pearl
North Brentwood Historic District
North Brentwood, Prince Georges County
North Brentwood, the earliest incorporated African American community in Prince George's County, is a small residential neighborhood located between the City of Hyattsville on the north and the Town of Brentwood on the south. Its easternmost boundary is the CSX (B&O) Railroad, and although it straddles Rhode Island Avenue (US 1), most of the town is located on the northwest side of that road. The town of North Brentwood is bounded on the south and west by the Town of Brentwood, while its northern boundary is defined by the Northwest Branch. The community comprises 128 buildings reflecting its development over the period 1891-1950. All of the early dwellings built in North Brentwood were of wood frame construction, and the earliest buildings represented all of the modest house forms that were popular at the time, including the ubiquitous I-house, and several varieties of urban-vernacular dwellings well suited for the deep, narrow lots. The 1920s brought a new variety of house forms, with bungalows, multi-family houses, and larger Foursquares. Small cottages built of brick were introduced in the period immediately following World War II.
North Brentwood is of particular significance in the African-American history of Prince George's County. The community was planned specifically for black families by Captain Wallace A. Bartlett, a veteran commander of the U. S. Colored Troops. Beginning at the end of the 19th century, the town was settled by black families seeking, through home ownership, some control over their lives in a segregated society. In spite of significant drawbacks (e.g., the potential for severe flooding from the Northwest Branch, and the fact that only the less valuable/desirable lots were sold to African Americans), these early owners developed their own political and social institutions, and created a successful community. North Brentwood is the first African-American community to have been incorporated in Prince George's County. The surviving historic buildings illustrate the forms and styles of buildings typically constructed in working-class suburban communities of the period, and many have been preserved through methods that clearly reflect the efforts and hardships of a working-class minority community.