Two trees near the historic Frederick Douglass mansion in Southeast Washington were set afire Tuesday night, raising concerns in the neighborhood and at the National Park Service about the safety of the 140-year-old building.
The fire, which blackened the tree trunks, was put out quickly by the D.C. fire department shortly after 8 p.m., according to John Hale, Park Service superintendent for the eastern side of the District.
He said there have been other incidents of vandalism at the property this year. Windows were shot in cars parked in the visitors lot on three occasions, and spray-painted messages were found on a garden shed Wednesday.
"We are very concerned about the situation," Hale said. "We have asked the [U.S.] Park Police to increase their patrols around the property."
Several neighborhood group representatives had been invited to meet at the mansion on Wednesday to discuss the vandalism to the cars. When they arrived, they were shown the more recent damage to the trees and shed, said Philip Pannell, executive director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council.
Pannell said the painted messages were: "Miss you Bean" and "Pimp of Cedar Gardens."
He called the Douglass property, at 15th and W streets SE, "the jewel of our community," and he said the neighborhood, as well as the Park Service, had a duty to protect it.
"Kids or adults are getting into the property at night," he said. "There is a drought situation and a fire could easily spread to the house."
Douglass, a former slave, became an abolitionist, author, statesman and friend of President Abraham Lincoln. After he and his wife, Helen, died, the property was held by a Douglass memorial association that turned it over to the Park Service in 1962.