Free African American Weeksville Community in Brooklyn Photo Tour-Abolition Civil War Reconstruction


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Pat Young

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#23
In New York City, a Committee of Merchants was organized to provide relief to the black refugees, many of whom had been driven out of their homes with only the things they could carry in their hands. According to the Committee's report:

weeksville refugees1.JPG

weeksville refugees2.JPG
 

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#24
The Draft Riots spurred recruiting in Weeksville for the army. Because Democratic Gov. Horatio Seymour opposed black regiments from NY, out-of-state black regiments recruited in Weeksville. Junius Morel wrote:

weeksville recruiting1.JPG
 

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When the Union League began recruitment of the 20th USCT in December 1863, it found recruits in Weeksville. Junius Morel discussed the reaction to the new black regiment:

weeksville recruiting2.JPG
 

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#29
The Weeksville houses in the photos are called the Hunterfly Road Houses. These were essentially "lost houses" for many years. They are off of the modern road system in Crown Heights. They were "discovered" during an aerial flyover by a professor from Pratt. According to the New York Preservation Archive Project:

The Hunterfly Road Houses were originally discovered by Pratt Institute professor James Hurley and pilot Joseph Haynes while doing an aerial survey over the Bedford-Stuyvesant area for a neighborhood workshop in 1968.1 These wood frame, vernacular style houses dating from 1840-1880 are among the few vestiges of a once thriving independent African American community. The oldest house, dating from the 1840s, at 1702-4 Bergen Street is a one-story duplex with a central chimney.2 The second house at 1698 Bergen Street is a two-story hall and parlor planned house with a wooden shingle exterior, and dates from the 1850s.3 The third house at 1700 Bergen Street was built in 1883 according to records from the Brooklyn Buildings Department, and is a two-story house with a hall and parlor floor plan.4 The fourth house at 1706-8 Bergen Street dates from 1865...
 

Pat Young

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More on the preservation history:

In 1968, James Hurley, a Pratt Institute professor, had been conducting a neighborhood workshop in Bedford-Stuyvesant. While researching the area's history, he found a few references to the town of Weeksville in the book, Brooklyn's Eastern District by Eugene L. Armbusters.11 After consulting old maps of the area, he was determined to find any physical remnants of Weeksville, and decided to do an aerial survey of the area with pilot Joseph Haynes. The two men were able to see four wooden structures facing away from Bergen Street across the street from the Kingsborough Houses complex. After comparing the houses' placement with the historic maps of the area, they were able to determine that the houses had originally faced an old Native American trail called Hunterfly Road.12

Due to the urban renewal projects planned for the area, Hurley feared these houses might be destroyed. He launched an archaeological excavation one block from James Weeks' 1830s house in order to glean any more historical information about Weeksville.13 They recovered old photographs, clothing, ceramic and glass fragments. Joan Maynard, artist and Brooklyn resident, became heavily involved in trying to safeguard the houses from potential destruction. The Kingsborough public housing complex located across the street from the Hunterfly Road Houses was constructed in the late 1950s and had destroyed several older tenement houses. Plans for more public housing were slated for the block on Bergen Street between Rochester Avenue and Buffalo Avenue, where the four deteriorating houses sat.14

In 1969, Joan Maynard created the Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford Stuyvesant History in order to catalog the rich history of Weeksville's past, restore the Hunterfly Road Houses, and convert them into an African American history museum.15 Maynard launched a series of campaigns inspiring school children, community members, and activists to join the effort to preserve Weeksville's past. Community members in addition to students of P.S. 243 petitioned at a New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission public hearing to designate the buildings as landmarks.16 In 1970, the four houses were individually listed as New York City Landmarks, further protecting the houses from urban renewal.
 



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