Twin Oaks, the summer cottage built for Frederick Douglass, houses the Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center (FDMCC).
The house faces east with a spectacular view of the Chesapeake Bay. This three-bedroom home was designed by Frederick Douglass. For him, one of the most important features was a second-floor balcony. He wanted that view, he said, "so that as a free man I could look across the Bay to the Eastern Shore where I was born a slave."
View from the second-floor balcony
Frederick Douglass passed away in February of 1895 just months before his summer home was completed. After his death, his son Lewis and wife Amelia came to Highland Beach, enjoying summers on the bay.
The house was actually bequeathed to Frederick Douglass' grandson, Joseph. Beginning in 1908 and until his death in 1935, Joseph and his family began summering at Twin Oaks. His wife Fannie continued to spend summers at Highland Beach until her death at the age of 101 in 1985.
For more on the Douglass Family - Go to Douglass and His Family.
Douglass House, Circa 1980
After Fannie Douglass' death, the house sat empty and was in need of major repairs.
Fannie's granddaughter, four generations removed from Frederick Douglass and then living in California, decided to sell the house. In 1987 the home was purchased by architect Charles Bohl and his wife Barbara, to renovate it and save it. They said at the time, "We knew that it wouldn't last another winter." Their aim was to create a 1880's looking home with modern conveniences.
The renovation was a huge undertaking. The house was in a flood plain and had to be raised four feet. A new foundation was poured under it. The porches were rotted and had to be replaced. Two new bathrooms were installed, as well as one side porch was enclosed to make room for a modern kitchen.
In 1992 Twin Oaks was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1995 the house was awarded the prestigious Orlando Ridout Prize for preservation of architectural heritage.
In February 1996 "Twin Oaks" was deeded to the town of Highland Beach at a ceremony held at the state capitol building in Annapolis. It was officially named the Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center.
The museum today has an extensive collection of artifacts, documents, photographs, furniture, and more related to the life of Frederick Douglass and the history of the communities of Highland Beach and Venice Beach. Click Here to See The Collection.