School Mural Depicts House That Was Part of Underground Railroad

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A new mural depicting Prince George’s County’s history and a future full of growth, diversity and unity adorns the front of the William Hall Academy on Marlboro Pike. Now, even the school’s walls have lessons. 

The mural’s red house was once a plantation house and later became a part of the Underground Railroad. Although some may consider this a touchy subject in today’s climate, one artist didn’t shy away – Brian Allen. 

"I think that’s very important to know that he was a slaveholder, but also knowing it was used in the Underground Railroad as well to free slaves," said Allen, a Prince George’s County native.

The house still stands today, but it didn’t always carry its signature red hue. It stands out in its Capitol Heights neighborhood, and if you go inside, the over 200 years of history jumps out at you. 

Inside the home, one can see the large stones that were used to cover the tunnel up, said Dwyane McMillan, the current homeowner. 

McMillan bought the home a couple of years ago as a fixer upper and was drawn to its appealing location on a hill and breathtaking history. 

Built in 1803, the home “has about eight fireplaces and the original [number of] bedrooms was nine,” McMillan said. And many of its original features remain intact, such as the tree timbers that hold the house up, McMillan added. 

The home’s original owner, Archibald Van Horn, was the head of the Maryland militia in the late 1700s and was a major landowner in the area. Van Horn was also a member of the House of Delegates around the time the house was built. 

A subsequent owner provided a secret waystation for enslaved people in their flight to freedom. As time passed, the house remained prominent in local history. Clara and Elijah Mohammad, founders of the Nation of Islam, stayed at the house on and off. Other visitors have included Malcom X, Muhammad Ali and Anwar Sadat.

Now, thanks to a local artist, countless others can see a representation of that history, though its origins may be painful.

“Where you end up is just as important,” said Allen.

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