Preservation Notes: Hill Center Naming Opportunities 5-11-23

This version of Preservation Notes introduces some of the people for whom rooms at the Hill Center are named.
Frederick Douglass was born enslaved on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He escaped from bondage to become an influential writer and speaker, and had a warm relationship with President Abraham Lincoln. In 1870, Douglass and his family moved to Capitol Hill to a large home at 316-318 A St. N.E. His final home was a few miles away in Anacostia.

His ties to Capitol Hill and President Lincoln as well as his abolitionist activism made him a logical person to honor when the old Naval Hospital reopened as the Hill Center. The Frederick Douglass Entry Porch and Steps are an appropriate formal entrance to a building commissioned by President Lincoln during the Civil War.
Sister Beatrice Duffy Hall was named for a member of the Sisters of Charity who was the administrator of Capitol Hill’s Providence Hospital from 1869 to 1898. The hospital was created in 1861 to serve Washington’s civilian population when the only other general hospital was appropriated for military use. Under Sister Beatrice, Providence became one of the city’s most innovative medical facilities and was open at the same time the Naval Hospital was in operation. “Viewed from any standpoint, Sister Beatrice must be graded as a woman of unusual power in her day and generation” the Medical Board of Washington stated when she died in 1899.

Elizabeth Haines, for whom a Hill Center room is named, was one of Washington’s most successful 19th-century businesswomen. A widow with young children, she opened a small dry goods business in Anacostia that she later moved to a bigger building near the Navy Yard. By 1892, Haines was able to build a large brick structure at 8th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue S.E., close to the Naval Hospital. She claimed her store was “the largest store in the world built, owned and controlled by a woman.”

The John Dahlgren Gallery honors a man who spent much of his career at the Washington Navy Yard as an ordnance officer developing new military weapons. While at the Navy Yard, he developed a distinctive bottle-shaped cannon called the Dahlgren gun. He was named the first Civil War-era leader of the Navy Yard in 1861 when the previous commandant and many officers resigned to join Confederate forces. Dahlgren left the Navy Yard in 1863 to command the Union blockade of southern ports. He returned in 1869 and served as commandant until his death a year later. President Lincoln frequently visited the Navy Yard to meet with Dahlgren and the commandants who followed him.

Harriet Jacobs, for whom another Hill Center room is named, was formerly enslaved and worked tirelessly to improve conditions for enslaved persons who won their freedom during the Civil War. Many lived in camps or temporary villages where she sought to improve sanitation and health care and to provide opportunities for education. In 1861, Jacobs published Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, which is considered one of the most important narratives of enslavement.

After more than a decade, we know what it takes to maintain the Hill Center rooms honoring these important figures. Our operating income is enough for all routine expenses. There are, however, unforeseen costs in the upkeep of an old structure.

Underwriting a room at Hill Center is an opportunity to contribute to the John Franzén Preservation Endowment, established to meet these unexpected needs. Based on a thorough professional study of the building’s future capital requirements, we know the endowment will generate enough investment income to guarantee Hill Center’s first-rate preservation and upkeep for generations to come.

To support the John Franzén Preservation Endowment, please donate online or call Scott St. Onge, director of development, at (202) 549-4172.


Bonny Wolf
Board Member
Old Naval Hospital Foundation

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