Summer wanderings took me to a place I have wanted to see for a long time--Frederick Douglass' home in Southeast Washington, DC. He lived there from 1877 to his death in 1895. The first thing to know, if you want to visit--make a reservation for a tour, unless maybe you are going on a Tuesday in February. They take only 10 people inside the house at a time, and people who showed up on-the-spot could only see the movie and the outside of the house.
The area, called Uniontown, had been built up by private developer with a whites-only restriction; when the developer went bankrupt, the Douglass' bought the house (which, at about $1,700, was expensive for the time). The view from Cedar Hill includes a good part of Northwest and Northeast Washington and into Maryland.
Douglass moved into the house with his first wife, Anna, who died in 1882. About 17 months later, he married Helen Pitts, a white woman who worked for him. Not only was there the racial issue (not illegal in the DC but in many other states, but socially very controversial), but Helen was just a year older than his daughter. Even now, that could certainly cause family strife. The couple traveled in Europe and Africa, perhaps to spend time on more neutral ground. But they did live at Cedar Hill, and Anna Douglass' bedroom stayed intact. (I couldn't help but think of Jefferson and Varina Davis, who visited Jefferson's first wife's grave on their honeymoon.)
Douglass' estate went to his children. Helen, mindful of the legacy, raised funds to purchase the house from them. It was run as an independent organization, then a program with the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, then, in the 1960s, as part of the National Park Service. The Visitors Center is serviceable--won't win any awards for architecture but down a stairway so that the house sits on its own.
It remains unclear how Douglass used a back alcove in the house==possibly as a trunk room so one of his trunks sits there today. The ranger pointed out his name on the trunk (bad lighting, and no flash allowed, therefore hard to see) and the fact it had a curved top to prevent other trunks from being stacked upon it.
He died on February 20, 1895, and was buried in Rochester.