The Frederick Douglass house

The other day I mentioned that the Hayfoot and I took a Civil War metro trip to the Frederick Douglass House in Washington DC.. Here are a few pics.

Cedar Hill, the home of Frederick Douglass

Cedar Hill, the home of Frederick Douglass

Fittingly given the man who lived in it, the house sits on this high ground. Douglass and his wife, Anne Murray, moved here in September 1877. Anne died and Frederick lived here with his second wife until his death in February 1895. He died in the house. The National Park Service gained jurisdiction of Cedar Hill in 1962 during the Civil War Centennial.

The Strawfoot at Cedar Hill

The Hayfoot has a knack for taking photos when I am unaware. The visit to the Douglass house bookended neatly with our visit to the Lincoln Cottage in late May. They were two of the highlights of the summer.

It takes some effort and perseverance to visit these more off-the-beaten-path places in the Capital. So many people just do the Mall and leave it at that. There is so much else to see if one is willing to put in the time and effort.

The Capitol Building from the front yard

The Capitol Building from the front yard

As at the Lincoln Cottage, one gets a view of the Capitol Building from the grounds.

It is best to get tickets in advance for either site to make sure you get the tour of the houses; the interiors ar accessible only by guided tour. At both places the interpretation was top notch. As a volunteer myself with the NPS, I can say that a good interpreter makes all the difference.

This was the view from the second story window. You can see part of the Anacostia neighborhood in the distance. This trip was doubly special because my mother was born in the neighborhood. My grandfather worked in the nearby Washington Navy Yard during the Depression and Second World War.

Visiting here had the added effect of getting me to renew my Ancestry account, which expired at the beginning of the summer. These past few nights I have been researching my family history while listening to the pennant races on MLB TV. I just loved that my mother lived so close to here.

Douglass's man cave

Douglass’s man cave

This stone cabin out back is where the great human rights leader came to get away from the grandkids and endless line of visitors who hoped for an audience with him. There was an extensive personal library in the house as well. I don’t think I fully understood Douglass the Intellectual until coming here.┬áThere is no substitute for visiting historical sites.

the grounds

the grounds

This photograph in the rear gives a sense of the size of the grounds. For an African American to own such a property in the nineteenth century was remarkable.

Frederick Douglass, 1818-1895

Frederick Douglass, 1818-1895

This was inside the visitors center. The NPS staff was knowledgable and helpful. My one criticism is that the film, which appeared to be from the early 1980s, is a tad dated. Hopefully they will remedy that in the future. The Douglass bicentennial, a short five years away, seems a good opportunity to do so.

When I was a graduate student I was taking a course on the Gilded Age and asked the professor what he considered the best Douglass biographies. He said there were a few competent ones, but that an authoritative one is still waiting to be written. We will see what happens in the next few years.

1 Comment

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One response to “The Frederick Douglass house

  1. thehayfoot

    It was a wonderful experience. Great memory! Amazing how many original pieces of furniture, photos and other household items had been preserved.

    The Hayfoot