Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Welcone to Cedar Hill

One more thing before I leave...

 On the hill behind me is Cedar Hill the final home of Frederick Douglass.  This Anacostia home was purchased by Douglass in 1877 for $6,700; in today's money that would be 1.3 million dollars.  By the time Douglass lived here he had become a very wealthy man, deriving his income from his public speaking, his publishing ventures, his writing and his various public offices.

 This life-size bronze of Douglass allows visitors to see his great stature (physically and metaphorically).

High atop cedar hill the house has commanding views of Washington DC.

 This is the desk at which Douglass wrote his final autobiography.  His study contains a portion of his personal library of over a thousand books.

The east parlor was the formal parlor where Douglass met with VIPs including politicians, newspaper publishers, the old abolitionists, women's rights advocates, and other notables.

We are very fortunate to have a set of photographs of the rooms from the time Frederick Douglass lived here. The rooms are arraigned in the way they were in the time of Douglass and about 75% of the artifacts were his.

Pictured here is Douglass's first wife Anna Murray Douglass.  They were married for 44 years. She bore him five children and they had 21 grandchildren.  She was a free black woman living in Baltimore when she and Douglass met.  She sold many of her personal items to finance his escape from slavery.

 Two years following Anna's death in 1882, Frederick Douglass married his second wife, Helen Pitts.  It was a controversial marriage as she was white, and perhaps even more scandalous to the upper-crust of Washington DC society was that she was twenty years younger than Douglass,  She was the same age as Douglass's Daughter Rosetta and this was a source of friction between the two women.

The West, or Family parlor, was the scene of music, laughter, games and fun.  We seldom associate Frederick Douglass with the word "fun" but indeed he was - giving his grandchildren piggyback rides throughout the house, playing leapfrog from the family parlor well into the adjacent dining room, and instructing them in the finer points of croquet - one of his favorite pastimes.

The house is filled with a wealth of domestic items including this kerosene powered flat iron...

and this classic stove from Sears and Roebuck.

Many visitors (and this particular Ranger)  find themselves coveting this beautiful crock for ice water. Imagine using it for iced tea or lemonade.

"If these walls could talk"  The dining room table is set just a Douglass left it.  Luminaries including Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman dined at this table.

Frederick Douglass was very much in demand as an orator, sometimes spending up to six months a year traveling to Europe where people wanted to hear the story of his life, his escape from slavery and his views on abolition, women's rights, and a variety of social justice issues.  This is his travel trunk with "F. Douglass" painted on the side.

The views from the upstairs hallway...

are nearly breathtaking.

This is Douglass's bedroom.  Note the dumbbells on the floor in front of the chair. Douglass was a very physically-fit and robust man who worked out every day.

This is Anna's room.  She was an invalid the entire time she lived at Cedar hill which was a scant four years.  A stroke ended her life in 1882.

Helen's room is just down the hall.  Helen was what could be considered a more "modern" woman as evidenced by her sewing machine and especially by her typewriter.  Helen was a clerk typist at the DC Register of Deeds office where she and Frederick Douglass met.  They married two years following the death of Anna.  They had many shared interests including travel, politics, women's rights, music theater and the arts.

Sunglasses worn by Frederick Douglass

The chimneys of Cedar Hill.

Treat yourself to a visit to Cedar Hill in the historic district of Anacostia. It's a fantastic resource that helps to tell the story of a truly great American.  Make a reservation for a tour at

I hope you've enjoyed this brief look into the life of Frederick Douglass through the lens of the house he lived  in for 18 years.

Still chasing history, from the heart of Anacostia,

Ranger Mannie

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Big News!

BIG NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After eight years of waiting and working I've finally received a permanent appointment with the NPS.  I start on the National Mall in Washington DC on September 8.  This is very (very) good news.

Now the hope is to work my way back to Antietam!

Soon from high atop the Washington Monument,

Ranger Mannie