- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2000

A long, curved path leads to the hilltop home where Frederick Douglass lived his final years at Cedar Hill in Anacostia.
Schoolchildren visiting the historic house on a recent steamy day thought it would have been a tough climb to make on foot every day. But from the summit, the view is stupendous.
The lofty perch allows a clear view of sky, trees and the surrounding neighborhood. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the front of the house invite light into the front rooms, and a wide bay window brightens the second floor.
The neatly appointed rooms are furnished with simple elegance, giving a sense of timelessness to a house that is nearly 150 years old.
Douglass broke a "whites only" covenant when he and his wife, Anna, purchased the property in 1877. The house is filled with artifacts from Douglass' travels and work as an abolitionist. One outstanding example is a gleaming silver tea set Queen Victoria gave to Douglass. The service is on display in the dining room, where a table is set with china and silver.
Above the mantel in thedining room is a 19th-century portrait of a group of somber-looking, black-suited men. The guide for a recent tour challenged second-graders from Capitol Hill Day School to pick out Douglass from the group.
With no hesitation, several children identified him. "He's the one with the bushy hair," a boy called out. The children had studied Douglass before the outing and were ready with questions during the 45-minute visit to the house.
"He made a bunch of cool speeches," said 7-year-old David Weightman, one of the second-graders. David enjoyed watching the film about Douglass, which is shown in a small theater in the visitors center.
On the walking tour through the house, the children enjoyed identifying such items as coffee grinders and old-fashioned irons that were heated on the stove. The children were fascinated by the laundry room, where women scrubbed linens by hand using water pumped out of a cistern.
The children learned that an item that looked like a plunger was an agitator, which helped wash the clothes.
In the entrance hall, one boy queried the tour guide about a portrait of soldiers that hung by the front door. It was a photograph of the 54th Massachusetts, the first regiment of black soldiers to be called into service during the Civil War. Douglass was in charge of recruiting the soldiers; the first two members were his sons. Both survived the war.
The bedrooms upstairs included separate rooms for men and women, with a small nursery area for Douglass' grandchildren. The tour guide told the children that every bedroom had its own bathroom.
"Cool," one boy said. But there was a catch, the tour guide noted. The "bathroom" consisted of a porcelain pot. This comment provoked a slight uproar as the children wrinkled their noses at the notion of pots serving as toilets.
"That's the toilet? Nasty," one girl said.
On the final leg of the tour, which wound up at the front entrance hall, one child asked about a wooden checkerboard in the parlor that Douglass was reputed to have made himself.
"Is that a real game that Frederick Douglass was playing when he died?" one girl asked. The checkers game was not in progress when Douglass died, but the table is several feet away from the spot where he collapsed after eating dinner. Douglass' second wife, Helen Pitts, installed a hanging red lamp to memorialize the spot.

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