MAY 20, 1943
WASHINGTON, Wednesday—It was most interesting to see the defense housing yesterday at Arlington Farms, Virginia. These are temporary buildings but they are made out of a new material, "Cemesto," which is waterproof, fireproof and moderately soundproof. It is less than two inches thick and made from waste material of sugar cane. The girls told me that if they kept their radios on very loud or made much noise in their rooms, their neighbors heard them, but for ordinary daily existence, this building material is very successful for inside and outside use.
At the end of every corridor there is a bricked-in stairway as a fire safeguard, and the girls told me that they hold regular fire drills. They have an infirmary where they can be treated for minor ailments, and care of this infirmary is included in the rent which they pay. The bedrooms looked very attractive.
For a single room the cost is $24.50 a month, but the double room can bring that cost down to as low as $16.50 a month, though, for the choice ones, it goes up to the same price as the single rooms. The cafeteria is quite a little walk from the finished dormitory, "Idaho Hall," which I saw yesterday. Most of the girls tell me that they get breakfast and lunch where they work and the cafeteria is only used for evening meals.
After leaving there, I saw another defense housing project for colored girls, called "Langston Hall." Here there will be two buildings, called "Midway" and "Wake." The plan is exactly the same as in Arlington and the building material used is the same. It was built by a colored contractor, Mr. Plato, who has built many post offices and government buildings in the past.
He confided in me that one difficulty had been the foundation, but that he had so far found only one crack. There will be, in connection with these buildings, an infirmary, a social center, a recreation building, and a cafeteria, which is a duplicate of the setup in Arlington.
I also visited two permanent hotels, one for men and one for women, built by the government to meet the shortage in housing for colored government workers. It was encouraging to see them, because they are not only well built and tastefully decorated, but extremely well run.
I returned home a little later than I had expected, but this household takes on some of the attributes of the Prime Minister's day while he is here, and he seems to find working at night far more profitable than working in the daytime.