Michael Buckman’s Blog: Frederick Douglass House-A Great Place to Visit & It Is Free!
One of the best historic sites to visit this summer in DC is the Frederick Douglass house and it is free to visit. Please note that if you make a reservation to visit the house online, you will be charged a processing fee. The house is located in the greater Anacostia neighborhood of Southeast DC at 1411 W Street SE. This historic property is maintained by the Park Service, has free parking and is Metro accessible, i.e. within walking distance of the Anacostia Metro station. For most students who grew up in DC and attended public school, Frederick Douglass’ house was a required school field trip. Nonetheless, it is a great place to spend a few hours enjoying a rarely visited part of the city and I highly recommend making the trip.
Frederick Douglass was a former slave born near Easton, Maryland. He was a staunch abolitionist. His autobiography was the quintessential works. It showed how badly slaves were dehumanized and treated before the Civil War. Later in his life, Douglass became the ambassador to Haiti, a United States Marshall, a Postmaster and the Recorder of Deeds. He was one of the great African American heroes.
His house is known as Cedar Hill. It sits atop what used to be the Cedar Hill suburb of Washington DC. The land and home were originally bought in 1855 by John Van Hook. In 1877, his bank acquired the property. It is not clear why the bank became the owner, but speculation is that it was because of probate issues. Douglass purchased the home in the same year while being appointed as a United States Marshall in Washington DC by then President Rutherford B Hayes. The job appointment from President Hayes brought Douglass financial stability which allowed Douglass to purchase an additional 15 acres around the property the following year (1878).
Douglass lived in this house until his death in 1895. Douglass wrote his final book The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass which was his final memoir while living at Cedar Hill. It was also in this house that Douglass became a member of high society in DC as well as becoming active in the woman’s suffrage movement. His first wife died in this house. Douglass remarried and lived with his second wife in the house.
The house itself is full of many interesting artifacts, with great stories behind them. When visiting the house, arriving early is key and it is only free if you ask for tickets upon arrival. There is a visitor’s center on the site below the house, which offers a rather cheesy 80's movie depicting the life of Frederick Douglass. I personally love the facial hair of all the actors in the movie.
The only way to visit the house itself is by guided tour conducted by a park ranger. The guided tours last about 45 minutes to an hour. The tour guides are enthusiastic and very knowledgeable. The interior of the house itself is amazing and well preserved. After the tour you can enjoy great views of the City from atop the hill itself. It is a wonderful experience that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a day out or venture into history.
For more information about Frederick Douglass’ home, the Anacostia neighborhood or any other neighborhood in DC, please contact me, Michael Buckman at: firstname.lastname@example.org.