The Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center is housed in “Twin Oaks”, the summer cottage that was built for Frederick Douglass by his youngest son, Major Charles Douglass. Constructed in 1895, it is located at 3200 Wayman Avenue in Highland Beach, Maryland. Sadly, Frederick Douglass would pass before he could move into the home.
During the 1980s, the cottage was bought and restored. In 1995, as per the museum and center’s website, “the State of Maryland and Anne Arundel County acquired the property and deeded it to the Town of Highland Beach as a memorial to Frederick Douglass, one of Maryland’s most famous sons.” Its mission, it states, is to provide and “promote a greater understanding of the life and work of Frederick Douglass and his family; to identify, document and preserve the social and cultural histories of Highland Beach and Venice Beach; and to make these resources available for information and research.”
The origin of Highland Beach is sourced with Charles and his wife, Laura. Named after close family friend and anti-slavery activist Charles Lenox Remond, Charles Douglass was the first African-American man in New York to enlist in the military in during the Civil War, and acted as one of the first African-American clerks of the Freedmen’s Bureau, located in our nation’s capitol.
By the early 1890s, Charles had long been a retired officer with the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry, the first Black regiment established during the American Civil War. He had also worked as a clerk in the U.S. Treasury Department. In 1892, the Douglass couple was refused service at a restaurant at the Bay Ridge Resort and Amusement Park because they were Black. In leaving, Charles and Laura had to cross a narrow channel at the mouth of Black Walnut Creek. When the husband and wife reached the other side of the channel, they, by chance, met members of the Brashear family. The Brashear family, who were also Black, owned the land opposite of the resort and amusement park.