Anyplace Frederick Douglass lived is going to be inextricably linked with black history. In fact, one of the best reasons to visit the Southeast DC neighborhood of Anacostia is to tour the ornately preserved halls of Douglass’s estate, Cedar Hill (1411 W St., SE; 202-426-5961). Yet visitors unfamiliar with the area may be surprised that they can also see an avant-garde theater production at the 2½-year-old Anacostia Playhouse(2020 Shannon Pl., SE; 202-290-2328), look at abstract paintings and photography at Honfleur Gallery(1241 Good Hope Rd., SE; 202-365-8392), or gape at one of the biggest chairs in the world—once the site of a Chuck Brown performance.
Anacostia wasn’t always a place many people wanted to visit. Along with its surrounding neighborhoods, it had the highest rates of violent crime in DC during the 1990s. The area has since improved, thanks partly to efforts of a local nonprofit, Arch Development Corporation. Still, there’s a ways to go. The 1200 block of Good Hope Road, for instance, may be home to the Anacostia Arts Center(1231 Good Hope Rd., SE; 202-631-6291) and Honfleur Gallery—both of which Arch helped open in the past decade—but it’s also the site of several vacant properties.
Some of the neighborhood’s biggest plans to attract tourism—including building a Wizards practice facility on the campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital and turning the old 11th Street Bridge into a High Line–style park with waterfalls, interactive art, and an amphitheater—won’t come to fruition for a few years, but there are still reasons to spend a day in Anacostia.