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Redevelopment Land Agency Photograph Collection

Identifier: 166

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of 1,416 photographs of Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA) construction projects throughout Washington, D.C. Of note are the projects related to the Southwest Waterfront and the repaving operations throughout the city.


  • Creation: ca. 1975


There are no known restrictions.

Historical Note

In 1945, Congress passed the District of Columbia Redevelopment Act that established the need and purpose of urban renewal in the District and created the Redevelopment Land Authority (RLA). Working in conjunction with the National Capital Planning Commission the RLA worked to survey “Slum or blighted areas” in the city and develop plans for their redevelopment. The Southwest neighborhood was the first identified project area, followed by neighborhoods including Shaw, Downtown, the H Street Corridor, and 14th Street. Using eminent domain, properties and businesses were acquired and razed and new housing and parks were developed. By 1972, 10 plans for redevelopment were approved. The Southwest projects and eminent domain were challenged in the Supreme Court in the landmark case Berman V. Parker (1954). The Court rejected the plaintiffs/appellants’ charge, ruling that the District of Columbia Redevelopment Act of 1945 was constitutionally applied and that the use of the eminent domain did not violate the 5th Amendment. The redevelopment plan in the Southwest neighborhood displaced approximately 1,500 businesses and 23,000 residents; and led to the construction of the Southeast/Southwest freeway, the relocation of Maine Avenue, the waterfront promenade, and several parks. The RLA became a District agency in 1974 with the passage of the Home Rule Act. The RLA was dissolved in 1999 and replaced by the National Capital Revitalization Corporation.


5 Linear feet (11 document storage boxes)

Language of Materials



There is no deed of gift for this collection and it is uncertain how the Library acquired the collection

Processing Procedure

Photographs were arranged by the project number assigned by the Redevelopment Land Authority (RLA) and individually sleeved and placed in acid-free folders. To limit the thickness of the folders, the folders were limited to 15-20 images per folder. Triplicate, or greater, copies of images were discarded.

Redevelopment Land Agency Photograph Collection
A Guide to the Redevelopment Land Agency Photograph Collection
Compiled by Mark Greek
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001