A modest brick rowhouse in the midst of downtown Brooklyn that when protected runaway slaves is town’s latest historic landmark.
The Harriet and Thomas Truesdell Home at 227 Duffield Road was designated a person landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Fee Tuesday, after years of grassroots efforts to guard the Greek-Revival fashion former row home, mentioned to be a uncommon surviving instance of a Nineteenth-century abolitionists’ house.
“After we speak about 227 Duffield Road we’re not simply speaking a few constructing, we’re speaking a few deeper historical past, and one thing we can’t afford to lose as a result of it’s a part of our coronary heart and soul,” mentioned Mayor Invoice de Blasio throughout a ceremony at Metropolis Corridor Tuesday. “It was the house of the famous abolitionist Harriet and Thomas Truesdell. It was a refuge for these fleeing slavery. And keep in mind that for therefore lengthy on this nation, fleeing slavery was not handled as a heroic act, however was handled as an act of illegality. So, the Underground Railroad, even right here in New York Metropolis, was wanted to guard individuals from unjust legal guidelines throughout our nation.”
The Truesdells had been outstanding abolitionists at a time when the economic system of New York Metropolis, and particularly Brooklyn, was underpinned by southern slavery. They lived in the home from 1851 till 1863, “a time marked by extra clandestine abolitionist exercise as a result of harsh penalties on those that broke the 1850 Fugitive Slave Regulation, which required that each one escaped slaves be returned and that officers and residents of free states needed to cooperate,” in line with de Blasio’s workplace.
“The property remained within the Truesdell household till 1921. Whereas a two-story business extension was added in 1933, the home retains its Nineteenth-century type and historic material above it, and its vital affiliation with the Truesdells and the historical past of the abolition motion in Brooklyn previous to the Civil Warfare continues to be legible,” de Blasio’s workplace mentioned.
“The Truesdells had been energetic abolitionists throughout a decisive interval of resistance and their legacy of dedication is consultant of the various abolitionists who supported complete emancipation as a part of the native and nationwide motion,” mentioned Landmarks Preservation Fee Chair Sarah Carroll in a launch.
However the effort to landmark the home has languished for greater than 16 years — partly due to an absence of historic information formally documenting its use as an Underground Railroad location — and at instances the property got here perilously near demolition.
Raul Rothblatt, an activist and member of Save 227 Duffield, advised Gothamist final yr he first lobbied the Landmarks Fee to guard the home in 2007 when the Bloomberg administration first thought of seizing the property by eminent area to create a park. The proposal was finally deserted after skilled testimony about its origins and public outcry.
The property’s most up-to-date house owners, Brownstoner reported, have been listed on DOB paperwork as “builders and companions” Samiel Hanasab and Yuval Golan. “In 2019, the house owners of 227 Duffield Road filed plans to demolish the historic home and put up a 13-story mixed-use constructing instead,” in line with Brownstoner, and an eviction discover was served on the property.
An try to succeed in Hanasab and Golan Tuesday afternoon was not profitable, although Hanasab’s lawyer Garfield Heslop advised Brooklyn Paper, “from a monetary perspective that is devastating for my shopper. Nonetheless we settle for the Fee’s determination, and we’ll see what occurs.”
It isn’t clear if anybody is presently residing on the web site — court docket papers from October say the property was deserted with damaged home windows.
Along with Downtown Brooklyn being a hotbed for activism, the existence of an underground tunnel beneath the house additional strengthened individuals’s beliefs that 227 Duffield was as soon as a cease on the Underground Railroad. Close by Plymouth Church is house to one of many stops on the Underground Railroad, which stays intact at present.
However the metropolis was uninterested, Rothblatt mentioned. After the controversy over eminent area, the Bloomberg administration dedicated $2 million to honor abolitionist historical past within the neighborhood, together with renaming Duffield Road as Abolitionist Place, however took no additional steps to protect the home or spotlight its legacy. One outstanding supporter, Pleasure “Mama Pleasure” Chatel, whose household lived in the home at one level and fought for everlasting recognition, died in 2014 with out ever seeing the home landmarked.
“Saving this home is a testomony to the wrestle that my mother led,” mentioned Shawné Lee, Chatel’s daughter and a founding member of Buddies of Abolitionist Place, in a launch Tuesday. “Mother all the time wished the constructing to develop into a community-controlled cultural middle the place Black individuals can have a good time our historical past and tradition. At this time we’re one step nearer to that dream, and we hope that at present’s occasions open the floodgates for the popularity of different Black landmarks.”
The following step, preservationists hope, is to show the constructing into the Heritage Middle at 227 Abolitionist Place the place guests can study in regards to the native abolitionist motion through interactive studying experiences and artist residencies, in line with Buddies of Abolitionist Place.