Frederick Douglass’ “Application for Permit to Build” for 316 & 318 A Street NE

Leaving a paper trail in this city can be ruinous, as ads on the Metro stations in and around Capitol Hill have reminded us. For a historic researcher discovering a paper trails is auspicious.

Last week, researcher and cartographer Brian Kraft shared some of the data he’s tediously gathered over the past decade on the city’s building permits.

With his help, this building permit from September 1879 to “erect two brick buildings” in the alley behind 316 & 318 A Street NE will have a life beyond his database and the microfilm at the Washingtoniana Division of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library.

According to City Directories, letters, and Douglass biographers, Anna and Frederick Douglass began living at this address in the early 1870s. I am planning on taking a trip back to the DC Archives to gather more information about this home, Douglass’ first home in Washington.

When Charles Douglass died in December, 1920 he was living at 318 A Street NE.

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