Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Washington DC

(130 reviews on the web)
Historic Site Tourist Spot
The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, administered by the National Park Service, is located at 1411 W St., SE in Anacostia, a neighborhood east of the Anacostia River in Southeast Washington, D.C.. Established in 1988 as a National Historic Site, the site preserves the home and estate of Frederick Douglass, one of the most prominent African Americans of the 19th century. Douglass lived in this house, which he named Cedar Hill, from 1877 until his death in 1895. Perched high on a hilltop, the site also offers a sweeping view of the U.S. Capitol and the Washington D.C. skyline.HistoryThe site of the Frederick Douglass home was originally purchased by John Van Hook circa 1855. Van Hook built the main portion of the present house soon after taking possession of the property. For a portion of 1877 the house was owned by the Freedom Savings and Trust Company. Later that year Douglass purchased the home and eventually expanded its 14 rooms to 21, including two-story library and kitchen wings. The house has an "L" shape and its plan is reminiscent of the design of Andrew Jackson Downing.With the election of President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Douglass hoped for a political appointment, likely postmaster for Rochester, New York or ambassador to Haiti. Instead, he was appointed marshal for the District of Columbia, a role which he accepted. His appointment to this highly visible position marked the first time a black man successfully received a federal appointment requiring Senate approval. Douglass, however, was not asked to fill many of the roles expected of a marshal. Typically, the marshal would attend formal White House gatherings and directly introduce guests to the President. Douglass, excused from this role, later complained that he should have resigned because of the slight. Still, the job brought him financial stability and, in 1878, he purchased the 20-room Victorian home on nine acres which they named Cedar Hill. He bought an additional 15 acres around the property the next year.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor
  • Excellent tour with John as tour guide. He was very knowledgeable about Frederick Douglass and made the tour interesting. Beautiful views of surrounding area. Book your ticket online because group siz...  more »
  • Excellent and thorough tour. Great to be on a small tour with a very knowledgable ranger. The artifacts are well kept, but the details about Douglass' life are what made this tour exceptional. Great v...  more »
  • One of the fun off the beaten path spots in DC. As 40+ year residents of DC, always like to find something new and different to see. Go to the Visitor's Center, see the short film and then take the 30...  more »
Google
  • If you do not know much about Frederick Douglass then this would be the perfect place to visit. The tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the history and life of Frederick Douglass. The house was very well preserved and it was a very fascinating tour overall. To be able to witness how life was back then compared to now was really eye-opening and I'd definitely recommend this tour as part of anyone's first time visiting Washington DC.
  • I'm DC for the weekend to visit the new National African American Museum. I added Frederick Douglass' house this week when I read his last home was in DC. I'm glad I learned about it and took the tour. Cedar Hill is an impressive home by any standard or time period. It is even more impressive within the context of Mr. Douglass's life: born a slave, died a statesman who was respected around the world. I always say "America, we can do better." Frederick Douglass represents some of the better this country is capable of.
  • This was the highlight of our trip. My son enjoyed this knowledge of the park guides. I tell everyone about this historical site. It is a must visit!!
  • This house and grounds has many positive reviews, and I have little to add to those: it's a lovely house with knowledgable guides well worth your time. But regarding the many reviews that are concerned about the neighborbood, feel free to ignore them. I, an unaccompanied woman, walked the three-quarters of a mile or so from the metro to the park, and I never felt unsafe. It is not an economically thriving neighborhood, nor is it a white neighboorhood, but please do not be deterred from visiting Douglass's house (or the cute newish art galleries a few block to the north on Good Hope). A tip: you can only get in the house on a guided tour, and there are only half a dozen or so tours a day, so be sure to check the schedule on the website to avoid having to sit around and wait for a tour. Booking ahead is probably necessary on weekends.
  • Frederick Douglass Home is beautifully furnished with his personal and family belongings. The Rangers do a great job