Ramsey Homes Symposium

Watch video of each of the three sessions of this free virtual symposium.

Page updated on Mar 8, 2021 at 11:36 AM

Ramsey Homes Symposium

Historic Preservation, Community, and Architecture of Public Housing in Alexandria



The Ramsey Homes were an example of early public housing in Alexandria, Virginia. The homes were constructed during WWII as permanent housing for African American defense workers and their families. The buildings were demolished in 2018 and replaced with higher density affordable housing.

This virtual symposium is a case study of the innovative construction of the World War II era Ramsey Homes and their African American residents.

Topics include: the history of public housing and Ramsey Homes; genealogy of early residents; architecture and engineering; and the process of documenting construction techniques. Click on time stamps below to view selected sessions.

Session 1: 
Welcome by Mayor Justin Wilson
7:00​ Project Overview, Helen McIlvaine, Office of Housing Director

Session 2:
16:53​ The Evolution of the Site (1834-2018), Anna Maas, Architectural Historian/Preservation Planner
1:09:33​ Segregation War Time Housing, Char McCargo Bah, Historian, Finding Things for U, LLC

Session 3:
2:03:35​ The pre-Fab Four: Experimental Design and Construction Techniques for Defense Worker Housing, John Dumsick and Al Cox
2:49:18​ Building What Was Built - Using BIM for Historic Interpretation, Purvi Gandhi Irwin
3:31:35​ Keith Pettigrew, Executive Director of ARHA
3:34:30​ Virtual Site Tour
3:35:56 Closing remarks, Gretchen Bulova, Director of the Office of Historic Alexandria


Ramsey Homes Building III (Anna Maas 2015 for HABS

Ramsey Homes Symposium

Historic Preservation, Community, and Architecture of Public Housing in Alexandria

Originally held on February 11, 2021

This virtual symposium is a case study of the innovative construction of the World War II era Ramsey Homes and their African American residents. Originally built as temporary housing for African American war industry workers in the 1940s, the homes later served as permanent affordable housing for Alexandria residents for 65 years. Symposium panelists will explore the history of public housing, genealogy of early residents, and the building’s unique construction and place in architectural history. The symposium will conclude with a virtual experience of the new Lineage on North Patrick Street.

The symposium was offered virtually via Zoom.  

Print a flyer.

AIA continuing education credit is available for the Ramsey Homes Symposium:

  • 1.5 LU – Finding a Place to Call Home: Race and Place in Alexandria, Virginia, 1860s-1960s
  • 2 LU – The Evolution of the Ramsey Homes Site, circa 1834-2018
  • 2 LU|HSW – The pre-Fab Four: Experimental Design and Construction of the Ramsey Homes & New Digital Technologies for Interpretation

If you would like to receive credit for a session please enter your name, email address, and AIA number in the chat at the beginning of each session that you attend.  We will forward this information to the AIA.


Session One, 9 a.m.-10:30 a.m. 

  • Opening Remarks by Justin Wilson, Mayor of Alexandria
  • Overview of the Ramsey Homes project by Helen McIlvaine, Office of Housing Director
  • Speaker One: Finding a Place to Call Home: Race and Place in Alexandria, Virginia, 1860s-1960s 
    Presented by Dr. Krystyn R. Moon, Professor of History and American Studies at the University of Mary Washington. Dr. Moon will examine housing accessibility and how segregationist practices (both de jure and de facto) impaired African American residents in Alexandria. 

Session Two: 11 a.m-1 p.m.

  • Speaker Two: The Evolution of the Ramsey Homes Site, circa 1834-2018
    Presented by Anna Maas, MUEP, Architectural Historian/Preservation Planner with Environmental Research Group, LLC. Ms. Maas will present the results of the studies conducted in preparation for the redevelopment of Ramsey Homes by Thunderbird Archaeology, a division of Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. The talk will include historic imagery and records of the site as well as architectural and archaeological photo-documentation from the investigations. 
  • Speaker Three: Segregation War Time Housing: Story of the Ramsey Homes
    Presented by Char McCargo Bah, CEO/Founder of Finding Things for U, LLC. Learn more about the lives of individuals who lived at the Ramsey homes from the 1940s-1950s.

Session Three: 2 p.m.-4 p.m. 

Panel Presentation: The pre-Fab Four: Experimental Design and Construction of the Ramsey Homes & New Digital Technologies for Interpretation

Presented by three panelists:

  • John Dumsick, P.E., APT-RP, FAPT an experienced structural engineer for the U.S. Department of State‘s Office of Cultural Heritage within the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. He is responsible for the proper care and stewardship to over (200) U.S. managed culturally significant properties overseas. John is a former board member of HARC, Friends of Carlyle House and Historic Alexandria Foundation
  • Al Cox, FAIA former City Architect and Historic Preservation Manager in the Department of Planning & Zoning.  He was staff to the Board of Architectural Review when the demolition and replacement for the Ramsey Homes was being reviewed. 
  • Purvi Gandhi Irwin, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, supporting professionals across all disciplines with BIM technologies as Practice Manager for Architecture at CADD Microsystems. She served on the Parker Gray Board of Architectural Review from 2012 until its consolidation in 2019, as both board member and Chair. She currently serves on the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review.

This presentation focuses on the structural system for one of the earliest precast concrete residential buildings in the United States and the reasons Modernist architectural design was used in a city best known for its red brick Colonial heritage. The digital software used to document and interpret these buildings will also be demonstrated. 

Concluding Remarks by Keith Pettigrew, Executive Director of Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

Instructions for a virtual site tour, “Experience Lineage, a new affordable housing project on North Patrick Street in Alexandria,” will be provided at the conclusion.


About the Ramsey Homes

An Example of Early Public Housing in Alexandria

The Ramsey Homes, a former public housing project on North Patrick Street, is being replaced by a mixed income community with low-income and market-rate units. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires actions to assess historic resources and to mitigate or resolve adverse effects. The documentation of the history and architecture of the Ramsey Homes was undertaken as part of this historic preservation process.

Top