The Ghosts of Jackson Hill

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  • Article concerns the history surrounding a Washington, D.C., home purchased in 1890 by the Smithsonian Institution's new National Zoological Park, which used the building for administrative offices until 1988. The 10-room residence, built between 1800 and 1830, was discovered in a state of near-ruin by community activist Eddie Becker in 1997; he launched efforts to conduct research on the property's history and prodded the zoo to become a responsible landowner. Research work by Becker and the Smithsonian's Office of Architectural History and Historic Preservation found that the building and surrounding land indeed had a history, as former U. S. President John Quincy Adams owned a mill nearby. Beginning in 1838 the house was rented for three years by Amos Kendall, a close confidant of President Andrew Jackson during his two terms in office from 1829 to 1837; Kendall named the house Jackson Hill in honor of his friend.
  • The author relates a fascinating story of neighbors Kendall, who was U. S. Postmaster General from 1835 to 1840, and Adams, who was then a Congressman pushing for the abolition of slavery. Kendall was on the opposite side of the issue because as postmaster general, he decided to allow states to suppress dissemination of abolitionist publications. The article tells of difficulties encountered by both men which caused them to reevaluate their ideas and beliefs, but the author concentrates on the lesser-known Kendall, who was forced to drastically alter his personal circumstances at mid-life, but was able to change his fate and be regarded as a remarkable and successful man when he died at the age of 80.


  • Van Buren, Martin 1782-1862
  • Kendall, Amos
  • Jackson, Andrew 1767-1845
  • Adams, John Quincy 1767-1848
  • Office of Architectural History and Historic Preservation (OAHHP)
  • National Zoological Park (U.S.)
  • Jackson Hill Washington, D. C
  • United States President


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Historic and present-day photographs accompany the article.

Contained within

The Washington Post (Newspaper)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


September 13, 1998


  • Slavery
  • Historic buildings
  • Abolitionists
  • National Zoological Park (U.S.)
  • National Zoological Park (U.S.)--Early History


  • United States
  • Washington (D.C.)

Physical description

Sunday Magazine section, pgs. 12-16 and 28-29

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