The Sage of Anacostia

The Sage of Anacostia (HM1NZT)

Location: Washington, DC 20020
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Country: United States of America
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N 38° 51.846', W 76° 59.135'

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An East-of-the River View

— Anacostia Heritage Trail —

This imposing property once belonged to Anacostia's most famous resident: Frederick Douglass. After escaping slavery as a young man, Douglass rose to become a distinguished abolitionist, writer, publisher, and orator. By the 1860s Douglass was one of the nation's intellectual and political giants who had President Lincoln's ear. Douglass argued early in the Civil War that Lincoln should allow African Americans to fight as soldiers in the Union army.President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Douglass to the prestigious position of U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia in 1877. Soon after, Douglass purchased the country retreat of bankrupt Uniontown founder John Van Hook in a mostly white neighborhood and named it Cedar Hill. His sons lived in the adjacent, mostly African-American, Hillsdale community. From his hilltop porch Douglass could look out across his acres of fruit and vegetable gardens and down upon the official Washington that so often disrespected him because of his race. Active in local as well as national affairs, Douglass hosted gatherings at Cedar Hill, spoke frequently at local churches, and served on Howard University's Board of Trustees. Succeeding U.S. Presidents appointed Douglass as DC recorder of deeds and ambassador to Haiti. The "Sage of Anacostia" died at home on February 20, 1895. His widow, Helen Pitts Douglass, left Cedar Hill to the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association upon her death in 1903. Despite volunteer maintenance and fundraising, the house fell into disrepair. Eventually Congress answered community demands and appropriated funds for the National Park Service to acquire and restore the home. It opened to the public in 1972. The visitors' center entrance is a short distance ahead on W Street. To reach Sign 19, cross 14th St. and walk one block downhill on W, then turn right on 13th St.
Neighborhood volunteers organized by the Anacostia Coordinating Committee joined federal laborers to maintain Cedar Hill over the years.
For 34 years Gladys Parham, seen in Cedar Hill's parlor, served as the caretaker while campaigning for the home's restoration.
Douglass's first wife, Anna, left, died at Cedar Hill in 1882 at age 69. Two years later he married his former clerk, suffragist Helen Pitts (seated with Douglass and Helen's sister Eva).
Frederick Douglass at work in the west parlor of Cedar Hill.
Neighborhood children prepare to toboggan down W St. around 1920.
National Park Ranger Genery Davis describes Cedar Hill's dining room, 1972.
For thousands of years a people called the Nacotchtanks lived here, trading and harvesting the riches of land and river. Europeans arrived in the early 1600s. At first they traded with the Indians, too, but they soon claimed land and began farming. Before long, the Nacotchtanks were gone, driven from the area by Europeans or killed by their diseases. All that remained was a version of their name: Anacostia.
Two villages founded here in the mid-1800s, white Uniontown and African-American Barry Farm, developed separately for a century. Today's Anacostia embraces both and is but one of some 30 neighborhoods located east of the Anacostia River. After 1900 this area grew with manufacturing and military installations. But during the 1960s, questionable government policies changed Anacostia drastically, leaving portions poor, overcrowded, and without adequate services. While many people left, those who stayed kept their communities strong, attracting new residents and investment as the 21st century began.
An East-of-the-River View: Anacostia Heritage Trail presents this complex history - and the best views in the city. Twenty signs take you on a two-mile walk ending at 13th and U Sts., SE. To return to the Anacostia Metro Station, walk to Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. and turn left, proceed six blocks to Howard Rd. and turn right. Or take Metrobus 92 from 13th St. and Good Hope Rd.
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This 2013 panorama captures the view from Cedar Hill. Photograph by Nancy Shia
Marker Number18
Placed ByCultural Tourism DC
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Thursday, September 17th, 2015 at 9:01pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 327729 N 4303569
Decimal Degrees38.86410000, -76.98558333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 51.846', W 76° 59.135'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 51' 50.76" N, 76° 59' 8.1" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)202
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling East
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 1401-1499 W St SE, Washington DC 20020, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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