Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Washington DC

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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Frederick Douglass National Historic Site Reviews
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  • August 11, 2017
    Not the easiest place to get to on public transportation but people were very helpful when we arrived at Anacostia Bus terminal via metro. Bus driver helped with drop-off and since house is at top of ...  more »
  • August 3, 2017
    Visiting here is a great place to learn about Douglass, efforts to end slavery, aspects of the Civil War, black American experience in DC, modern Anacostia. It is worth the effort to find this pace wh...  more »
  • July 24, 2017
    The home of Frederick Douglass is interesting. However, our tour guide made it enjoyable. We had Delphine Gross and her knowledge of Mr. Douglas was impressive. She explained everything in each room a...  more »
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  • June 1, 2017
    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.
  • July 9, 2017
    Beautiful grounds, set up on a hill. Great visitor's center. Nice gift shop.
  • April 30, 2017
    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.
  • July 4, 2017
    Toddler son and I attended program here on 7/4/17. Wonderful; educational; and decently shaded with A/C! :)
  • April 30, 2017
    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!!

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Most visitors to Washington, D.C., end up in the East End, the old downtown district containing most of the city's major cultural attractions. For a more authentic Washingtonian experience, consider staying at a smaller hotel just a little north or east of this busy area. Neighborhoods outside downtown offer less expensive accommodations and affordable street parking, as well as opportunities to meet more locals and fewer tourists. Alternatively, try a hotel in Georgetown, packed with high-end shops and Colonial architecture.
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