True Reformer Building

1200 U St., NW, Washington, District of Columbia



Photo taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey



The True Reformer Building was probably the first building in the United States to have gone through all of the design, financing,and construction processes using only the talents and resources of the black community. It was designed by John A. Lankford, the first twentieth century black professional architect in the District of Columbia. The building itself is representative of turn-of-the-century fraternal mutual aid organizations which have been described by the historian August Meier [In his Negro Thought in America, 1880-1915: Racial Ideologies in the Age of Booker T. Washington (Ann Arbor, Michigan, 19630, . 137] as second only to churches as important centers for racial self-help and cooperation in that racially difficult era. The dignified four story building also represents the Afro-American's contribution to monumental architecture at the time public and private Washington was being revitalized as a result of the McMillan Commission proposals. -- Historic American Buildings Survey

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on January 9, 1989
Reference number
Architectural style
American Movement
Areas of significance
Commerce; Ethnic Heritage - Black; Architecture; Social History
Levels of significance
State; Local
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic functions
Meeting hall; Organizational; Financial institution
Current function
Specialty store
Periods of significance
1900-1924; 1925-1949
Significant years
1903; 1911; 1937

Update Log 

  • May 12, 2012: Imported photos from HABS/HAER