We got there early since the first tour was at 9, the exact time they open and reservations were strongly suggested but you have to make them a day in advance. Well, we did not.
While we were waiting we met another couple trying to get tickets too. They were very impressed with Lon.
When we got to the ticket desk, the very nice ranger said she could only take two more on the tour. I looked at the guys and said, we can do something else you were here first. They said, oh no! You guys are going! I could not live with the guilt of denying your son another badge! They were very nice guys. Thank you whomever you are!
History Bit about the house:
Construction of the House
• The house was built between 1855 and 1859 for John Welsh Van Hook, an architect from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The house consisted of between 6 to 14 rooms.
• In 1854, Van Hook partnered with John Fox and John Dobler and formed the Union Land Association, whose offices were in the Van Hook home. These developers purchased 100 acres of farmland to form a new subdivision called Uniontown (today Anacostia).
Frederick Douglass at Cedar Hill
• On September 1, 1877, Douglass paid $6,700 to the Freedmen’s Savings and Trust company for the home and 9 and ¾ acres of land.
• Douglass purchased an additional 5 and ¾ acres of land from Ella R. Talburtt in 1878.
• Douglass moved into the home with his first wife, Anna Murray Douglass, during the fall of 1878.
• Following the death of Anna in 1882, Douglass married Helen Pitts in 1884 and resided with her at Cedar Hill until his death on February 20, 1895.
• Douglass made a series of additions to the house, dating from 1877 to 1893. By the time of his death, the home was converted into a 21-room mansion.
• The improvements most likely made between 1877 and 1878 included the construction of a two-story, wood-framed addition at the rear of the house. The original kitchen was converted into a dining room and a new kitchen was added to the south wing. Upstairs a partition which divided two rooms on the west side of the house was removed and replaced by two walls to create three smaller bedrooms. Finally, during this period, the attic was finished to create five additional rooms.
• Other additions were made to the home throughout the years and included the building of a new library around 1886 and the addition of a second-story bedroom between 1892 and 1893.
History Bit On Mr. Douglass:
Frederick Douglass was born on a plantation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland around 1818. He died 77 years later in his home at Cedar Hill, high above Washington, DC. In his journey from captive slave to internationally renowned activist, Douglass changed how Americans thought about race, slavery, and American democracy. Since the early 1800s Douglass' life has been a source of inspiration and hope for millions. He has also been an ever present challenge, demanding that American citizens live up to their highest ideals and make the United States a land of liberty and equality for all.
Slavery and Escape
Douglass began his life on a plantation belonging to Edward Lloyd in February, 1818. He was named Frederick Bailey after his mother (Harriett Bailey), though he only met her three or four times in his life. Around the age of eight he was sent to live with one of his owner's relatives in Baltimore, Maryland. It was while living in Baltimore that he was mistakenly taught the first several letters of the alphabet. Those few letters opened a new world to him and began his lifelong love of language.
At fifteen, the now literate Douglass was returned to the Eastern shore to work as a field hand. Here the increasingly independent teenager educated other slaves, resisted efforts to beat him, and planned a failed escape attempt.
Three years later, on September 3, 1838, Douglass disguised himself as a sailor, and carrying a friend's passport, boarded a northbound train from Baltimore.He arrived in New York City and declared himself a free man.
After escaping from slavery Douglass changed his name to avoid being recaptured and turned his efforts to helping those still held in bondage. Douglass travelled around Massachusetts speaking about his experiences with slavery and the need to destroy it.One of the most prominent abolitionists in America, William Lloyd Garrison heard Douglass and invited him to join the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. Douglass was soon touring across the North speaking against slavery and becoming one of the country's finest orators.
Douglass was such an impressive speaker and he broke so many of his audiences' preconceptions that some people began to doubt he was truly a fugitive slave.To prove them wrong Douglass wrote his first autobiography, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845), in which he revealed his original name, his owner's names, and where he was born. The book was wildly popular, but with his identity known Douglass was in danger of being returned to slavery. Once again he had to flee, this time to England, Scotland, and Ireland.
While in the British Isles Douglass continued speaking against slavery. British supporters were so impressed with Douglass that they purchased his freedom. After more than two years abroad Douglass was able to return to the United States a legally free man. He settled in Rochester New York, a hotbed of the abolitionist and women's rights movements. Using additional money raised in Britain, Douglass bought a printing press and began publishing The North Star newspaper. He now proudly referred to himself as "Mr. Editor."
In 1861 tensions over slavery erupted into civil war. Douglass welcomed the conflict as the cataclysmic event needed to wipe slavery from America. As always, he acted as the nation's conscience, arguing that the war was about more than union and state's rights. It was, he said, about a new birth of freedom, a great step towards the nation promised in the Declaration of Independence.
Douglass knew that this new freedom had to be won both on and off the battlefield. Though he was too old to serve in battle, himself he recruited other African Americans to fight in the Union Army, including two of his sons, who served with the famous 54th Massachusetts. Away from the fighting Douglass continued to write and speak against slavery, arguing for a higher purpose to the war. He met with Abraham Lincoln to advocate for African American troops and to encourage Lincoln to see the war as a chance to transform the country into a more perfect nation. Douglass' influence was crucial to Lincoln's evolution as a thinker over the course of the war. This influence can be seen in the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln's second inaugural speech.
Post Civil War
Following the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery new possibilities opened up for Douglass. He moved from Rochester to Washington, D.C., eventually buying the home at Cedar Hill. During this time he served as the U.S. Marshall for the District of Columbia, the District's Registrar of Deeds, and the U.S. Minister to Haiti and Charge d'Affairs to the Dominican Republic. Despite his victories and successes, Douglass still had many battles to fight. African Americans hold on their newly won civil rights remained tenuous and women were still not allowed to vote. He continued to work to expand civil rights in the country until his death in 1895.
The air conditioning was out in the house. By the afternoon, it was going to be very hot inside that house. The windows no longer open.
They made a casting of his hand also, the hand that wrote those words
We sort of got lost on our way to Arlington House, and ended up at the Air Force Memorial. It was worth it for that picture.
The gown was not hers, but something she would have worn. I liked the colors
History Bit about the House Construction:
The mansion was built on the orders of George Washington Parke Custis, the step-grandson and adopted son of George Washington and only grandson of Martha Custis Washington. Custis was a prominent resident of what was then known as Alexandria County, at the time a part of the District of Columbia
Arlington House was built at a high point on an 1,100 acre (445 ha) estate that Custis' father, John Parke Custis, had purchased in 1778. ("Jacky" Custis died in 1781 at Yorktown after the British surrender.) George Washington Parke Custis decided to build his home on the property in 1802, following the death of Martha Washington and three years after the death of George Washington. Custis originally wanted to name the property "Mount Washington", but was persuaded by family members to name it "Arlington House" after the Custis family's homestead on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
George Hadfield, an English architect who also worked on the design of the United States Capitol, designed the mansion. Construction began eleven years after L'Enfant's Plan for the future "Federal City" (later called "Washington City", then Washington D.C.) had designated an area directly across the Potomac River to be the site of the "President's House" (later called the "Executive Mansion", now the White House) and the "Congress House" (now the United States Capitol).
The north and south wings were completed in 1804. The large center section and the portico, presenting an imposing front 140 ft (43 m) long, were finished 13 years later. The house has two kitchens, a summer and a winter. The most prominent features of the house are the 8 massive columns of the portico, each 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter.
Custis was a prominent resident of the jurisdiction that was then named Alexandria County and is now named Arlington County. Guests at the house included such notable people as Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, who visited in 1824 (see: Visit of the Marquis de Lafayette to the United States). At Arlington, Custis experimented with new methods of animal husbandry and other agriculture. The property also included Arlington Spring, a picnic ground on the banks of the Potomac that Custis originally built for private use but later opened to the public, eventually operating it as a commercial enterprise.
Custis married Mary Lee Fitzhugh. Their only child to survive to adulthood was Mary Anna Randolph Custis. Robert E. Lee, whose mother was a cousin of Mrs. Custis, frequently visited Arlington and knew Mary Anna as they grew up. Two years after graduating from West Point, Lieutenant Lee married Mary Anna Custis at Arlington on June 30, 1831. For 30 years Arlington House was home to the Lees. They spent much of their married life traveling between U.S. Army duty stations and Arlington, where six of their seven children were born. They shared this home with Mary's parents. After their deaths, Mary's parents were buried not far from the house on land that is now part of Arlington National Cemetery.
The Custises extensively developed the Arlington estate. Much of the steep slope to the east of the house became a cultivated English landscape park, while a large flower garden with an arbor was constructed and planted south of the house. To the west of Arlington House, tall grass and low native plants led down a slope into a natural area of close-growing trees the Custises called "the Grove” About 60 feet (18 m) to the west of the flower garden, "the Grove" contained tall elm and oak trees which formed a canopy. An informal flower garden was planted beneath the trees and maintained by the Custis daughters. It is not clear when "the Grove" began to be developed, but it was under way by at least 1853.
Upon George Washington Parke Custis' death in 1857, he left the Arlington estate to Mary Custis Lee for her lifetime and thence to the Lees' eldest son, George Washington Custis Lee. The estate needed much repair and reorganization, and Robert E. Lee, as executor of Custis' will, took a three-year leave of absence from the Army to begin the necessary agricultural and financial improvements. The will also required the executor to free the slaves on the estate within five years of Custis' death. Robert E. Lee fulfilled this requirement by manumitting the slaves in December 1862.
Lon is checking out his book. I am not going to go up the stairs at the house.
The people at Arlington Cemetery were not very helpful in getting to Arlington House. A few were downright rude about it. It is a very long way up a steep hill. We barely made it in time for Lon to explore the house. Sadly, they were out of Jr. Ranger Badges, but the ranger promised that we would be mailed one as soon as they came in, and she would send the trading cards too since they were out of them too.
History Bit about the house during the Civil War:
In April 1861, Virginia seceded from the United States. Robert E. Lee resigned his commission in the United States Army on April 20, 1861, and joined the military forces of the Confederate States of America. With Arlington House on high ground overlooking the capital, the government of the United States knew it must occupy the mansion or be left in an untenable military position. Although unwilling to leave Arlington House, Mary Lee believed her estate would soon be infested with federal soldiers and left to stay with relatives on May 14. Union troops occupied Arlington without opposition on May 24.
In June 1862, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation which imposed a property tax on all land in "insurrectionary" areas of the United States The 1863 amendments to the statute required these taxes to be paid in person. But Mary Lee, afflicted with severe rheumatoid arthritis and behind Confederate lines, could not pay the tax in person. The Arlington estate was seized for nonpayment of taxes. It was auctioned off on January 11, 1864, and the U.S. government won the property for $26,800 ($412,895 in 2015 dollars.
During the war, Union troops cut down many of the trees on the Arlington estate, especially those to the north and east of Arlington House in and near Fort Whipple (north of the house) and Arlington Springs (near the Potomac River). However, a number of large trees remained, particularly those in a forested area (now known as Arlington Woods) west of the house.
By early 1864, the military cemeteries of Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Virginia, were rapidly filling with war dead. Quartermaster General of the United States Army Montgomery C. Meigs proposed using 200 acres (81 ha) of the Arlington estate as a cemetery. United States Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton approved the establishment of a military cemetery on June 15, 1864, creating Arlington National Cemetery. Meigs believed Lee committed treason in deciding to fight against the Union, and denying Lee use of the mansion after the war was politically advantageous. Meigs decided that a large number of burials should occur close to Arlington House to render it unlivable. Officers were to be buried next to the main flower garden south of the house, and the first burial occurred here on May 17. Meigs ordered that additional burials commence immediately on the grounds of Arlington House in mid-June. When Union officers bivouacked in the mansion complained and had the burials temporarily stopped, Meigs countermanded their orders and had another 44 dead officers buried along the southern and eastern sides of the main flower garden within a month.
In September 1866, a memorial and a burial vault containing the remains of 2,111 Union and Confederate soldiers who died at the First Battle of Bull Run, Second Battle of Bull Run, and along the Rappahannock River were buried on the former site of "the Grove" southeast of the mansion beneath the Civil War Unknowns Monument.
History Bit about the house after the Civil War:
Robert E. Lee made no attempt to visit or restore his title to Arlington before his death in 1870. Mary Lee died in 1873, having visited to the house only once, a few months before her death. (Too upset at its condition, she refused to enter and left after just a few moments)
In April 1874, Robert E. Lee's eldest son, George Washington Custis Lee, filed suit against the United States government in a Virginia circuit court to regain his property. A jury found in favor of Lee, leading to extensive appeals by both parties. In 1882, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of Lee in United States v. Lee, 106 U. S. 196. The court, by a 5-4 majority, found that the estate had been "illegally confiscated" in 1864 and ordered it returne. But Lee was less interested in obtaining the estate than he was in just compensation for it. After several months of difficult negotiations, Lee and the federal government settled on a sale price of $150,000 ($3,796,607 in 2015 dollars.] Congress enacted legislation funding the purchase on March 3, 1883; Lee signed over the title on March 31; and the title transfer was recorded on May 14, 1883.
In 1920, the Virginia General Assembly changed the name of Alexandria County to Arlington County to end ongoing confusion between Alexandria County and the independent city of Alexandria. The name, Arlington, was chosen to reflect the presence of the Arlington estate.
In 1925, the War Department began to restore Arlington House, and the Department of the Army continues to manage over half of the original plantation's 1,100 acres, as Arlington National Cemetery. On March 4, 1925, Congress passed legislation (Public Resolution – NO. 74) that authorized the restoration of the Lee Mansion in the Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. However, for several years after the 1925 legislation was passed, when the War Department was responsible for managing the house and grounds, the enabling legislation was largely ignored. In direct violation of the enabling legislation, the War Department, largely at the insistence of Commission of Fine Arts director Charles Moore, decided to furnish and interpret to “the first half of the republic.” This decision was based, in part, on the popularity of the Colonial Revival movement which was still popular in 1925. The Mansion was restored to the period of George Washington Custis, and no furniture manufactured after 1830 was accepted. This approach utterly negated Lee’s role and presence at Arlington.
In 1955, Congress passed Public Law 107 officially designating Arlington House as a permanent Memorial to Robert E. Lee and ensuring that the correct interpretation of its history would be applied. Gradually the house was furnished and interpreted to the period of Robert E. Lee as specified in the original legislation.
The National Park Service received jurisdiction over the building and some 28 acres of adjacent gardens (distinguished from the cemetery) beginning in 1933
This was at the little museum behind the house. It was air conditioned. They also had a kitchen garden there.
One of the gates of Arlington National Cemetery. I did not take photos of the graves, it seemed a little morbid to me. I did not buy Lon any souvenirs from the Cemetery for that reason.
We did see John F Kennedy's gave.
We were not even to the visitor's center! Our car was still about a quarter mile away.
It was a good day. Tomorrow, we are off on another adventure!