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Frederick Douglass’s First House In DC Has Been Renovated And Is On the Market for $5 Million

Before a developer bought it, the NE DC property housed a Smithsonian entity and a trade group.

Frederick Douglass’s First House In DC Has Been Renovated And Is On the Market for  Million
All photographs courtesy Washington Fine Properties.

Frederick Douglass moved to Washington, DC, in 1871. He’d lived in or spent lots of time in New York, Massachusetts, Ireland, and England after he famously escaped enslavement in Maryland three decades earlier, and in 1871 President Hayes named the writer and abolitionist the US Marshal for the District of Columbia. He settled in Capitol Hill, at 316 A Street, Northeast, a short walk from the US Supreme Court and the Capitol. 

The penthouse family room.

That house is now on the market, offered at $4.95 million by Robert Hryniewicki, Adam T. Rackliffe, and Christopher R. Leary of HRL Partners and Jennifer Thornett + Micah Corder at Washington Fine Properties. The listing was first reported by Washington Business Journal.

Douglass lived on A Street until 1877, when he moved to Cedar Hill in Anacostia, which is now a national historic site. The A Street property has changed hands several times since. It was the first home of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, and was later owned by the the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, which hosted a lightly visited museum dedicated to Douglass there before offering it for sale in late 2017.

Now, as WBJ reports, the 6,150-square-foot house and several nearby buildings with a connection to Douglass have been remade by Brush Arbor Home Construction. The Douglass house has seven bedrooms and six and a half bathrooms. The house has four levels, with a penthouse that promises “a sublime north-facing city view from the relaxing vantage point of a family room with wet bar.” There is an elevator.

The house boasts ten-foot ceilings and hand-milled white oak floors and a “private backyard retreat.” Its lower level includes a bedroom, second laundry room, and exercise room as well as garden access, providing “excellent flexibility for au-pair or in-law living configurations,” the listing says. The buyer will get a two-car garage plus two additional one-car garages.

Two additional properties are for sale: 318 A Street, Northeast, and a carriage house at 17 Frederick Douglass Court, Northeast, that were also redone by Brush Arbor. They can be packaged with the Douglass house for $10 million, Hryniewicki tells Washingtonian.

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Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.