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Anacostia in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The Sage of Anacostia

An East-of-the River View

 

—Anacostia Heritage Trail —

 
The Sage of Anacostia Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. Makali Bruton, September 5, 2015
1. The Sage of Anacostia Marker
Inscription. 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,
The Sage of Anacostia Marker Reverse image. Click for full size.
By J. Makali Bruton, September 5, 2015
2. The Sage of Anacostia Marker Reverse
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.

Captions:

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 Gentry Davis describes Cedar Hill’s dining room, 1972.

For thousands of years a people called the Nacotchtanks lived here, trading and harvesting the riches
The Sage of Anacostia Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. Makali Bruton, September 5, 2015
3. The Sage of Anacostia Marker
Looking east on W St. The Frederick Douglass home is on the hill to the right.
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.

[List of supporters and contributors]

Caption:
This
The Sage of Anacostia Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. Makali Bruton, September 5, 2015
4. The Sage of Anacostia Marker
Looking west on W St.
2013 panorama captures the view from Cedar Hill. Photograph by Nancy Shia
 
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 18.)
 
Location. 38° 51.846′ N, 76° 59.135′ W. Marker is in Anacostia, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of W St. SE and 14th St. SE, on the right when traveling east on W St. SE. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20020, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Growlery (about 500 feet away); Uniontown, DC's First Suburb (about 500 feet away); Mother Churches and Their Daughters (about 700 feet away); Education Matters (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Big Chair (approx. 0.2 miles away); a different marker also named The Big Chair (approx. ¼ mile away); The World’s Largest Chair (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Anacostia.
 
Categories. Abolition & Underground RRAfrican AmericansAnthropologyPolitics
 
Frederick Douglass<br>The Sage of Anacostia image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 26, 2016
5. Frederick Douglass
The Sage of Anacostia
Close-up of image on marker
Anna Douglass image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 26, 2016
6. Anna Douglass
Close-up of photo on marker
Frederick Douglass, Helen Pitts Douglass & Eva Pitts image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 26, 2016
7. Frederick Douglass, Helen Pitts Douglass & Eva Pitts
Douglass’s first wife, Anna, (Photo #8), 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).
Close-up of photo on marker
Gladys Parham image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 26, 2016
8. Gladys Parham
For 34 Years Gladys Parham, seen in Cedar Hill's parlor, served as caretaker while campaigning for the home's restoration.
close-up of photo on marker
The View from Cedar Hill image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 26, 2016
9. The View from Cedar Hill
This 2011 photograph captures the view from Cedar Hill.
Close-up of Nancy Shia photo on the reverse of the marker
You Are Here image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 26, 2016
10. You Are Here
Close-up of photo on marker
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 23, 2017. This page originally submitted on September 17, 2015, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. This page has been viewed 462 times since then and 78 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on September 17, 2015, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.   5, 6, 7. submitted on July 21, 2016, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.   8, 9, 10. submitted on August 7, 2016, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.
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