The whole campus was designed by a prominent African American architect, Hilyard Robinson, who lived in Washington.
“Just as Henrietta Lacks’ story needs to be told, so does Hilyard Robinson’s,” said Tini. “He was a prominent Black architect who left an incredible legacy. This is a great neighborhood he made. These are phenomenal residents here too. We are lucky to be working here.”
He noted that the homes, designed in duplex units with generous green spaces and mature trees, are mixed with a number of private residences.
“It was a new house, with a nice new gas stove. Henrietta had never cooked before on anything but a wood stove,” David Lacks, her husband, said in a 1997 interview in The Sun.
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Justin Little, project manager for Southway Homes and a Morgan State University graduate, is supervising the renovations, installing a moisture barrier in the crawl space and other energy-saving devices for these properties that were originally constructed without a basement.
Little and his crew are rebuilding joists affected by the moisture often found in properties adjacent to water. They are refinishing floors, adding central air conditioning, new windows, roofs, lighting, showers, kitchens and first-floor powder rooms where the coal furnaces once stood.
“We manage a lot of properties, and the people in this community drew us to Lyon Homes,” Tini said. “They are bedrock — hardworking and thoughtful. They care about their neighborhood.”
So far, 118 units in Lyon Homes are finished and occupied, completed in 2018. Work started again in late 2020. Tini expects all the home rehabs to be completed by early 2022.
Derek Seawell, a native of Turner Station, lives near the former Lacks residence in one of the newly refurbished homes.