565 & 569 Bloomingdale Road
1482 Woodrow Road, Staten Island
584 Bloomingdale Road, Staten Island
1897, Andrew Abrams
Crabtree Avenue, Staten Island
In the 1830s, Staten Island’s south shore, known as Sandy Ground, became home to a thriving community of free black oyster traders who moved from Maryland after that state passed a series of laws limiting free blacks’ freedoms. The community prospered from Staten Island’s rich oyster beds, and boosted the local economy, but the rise of industrial pollution and overfishing led to the closure of the beds in 1916 and Sandy Ground’s heyday came to an end. Calamitous fires in 1930 and 1963 destroyed many of its buildings, but there are several architectural remnants, including four Individual Landmarks: the Baymen’s Cottages, housing constructed for oyster traders and their families; the Rossville AME Zion Church, the Coleman-Gray House, home to the Rossville AME Zion Church’s sixth pastor; and the Rossville AME Zion Church Cemetery. The church and cemetery are perhaps the most important survivors, as they provide spiritual connections to this community that was defined by its people more than its geography. Founded in 1850, the church was the center of Sandy Ground’s spiritual and cultural life, and served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. While the original church no longer stands, its adjacent cemetery contains graves of some of Sandy Ground’s original residents, and the new church, constructed in 1897, remains active today. Sandy Ground’s history is displayed, interpreted and celebrated by the Sandy Ground Historical Museum, located just around the corner from the church on Woodrow Road. Photos by Peter Greenberg.
1698 Bergen Street, Brooklyn
Weeksville was home to about 500 residents in the 1850s, and served as a refuge for black families during Manhattan’s violent Draft Riots of 1863. The village was named for James Weeks, an African American stevedore from Virginia who purchased a tract of land here in 1838, 11 years after slavery was abolished in New York State. The community boasted a number of churches, schools and other institutions, as well as one of the first African American newspapers, the Freedman’s Torchlight. As Brooklyn grew, the village became absorbed into the greater neighborhood of Crown Heights and its memory faded, but in 1968, a Pratt Institute workshop led by historian James Hurley rediscovered the Hunterfly Road houses and a new mission was launched to preserve Weeksville’s memory. That same year saw the formation of The Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant History (or “The Weeksville Society”), which, under the leadership of Joan Maynard, purchased the Hunterfly Road houses in 1973 for a museum. The houses, built between 1840 and 1880, are all Individual Landmarks and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
144-146 West 131st Street, Manhattan
1883, William J. Merritt
170 West 130th Street, Manhattan
1884, William J. Merritt; 1928, altered by Vertner Woodson Tandy
Originally constructed for the Baptist Church of the Redeemer, this freestanding Romanesque Revival style building is of great cultural importance to the city for its ties to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s-60’s. After changing hands several times, it was sold in 1936 to the Friendship Baptist Church, founded by the Rev. Dr. John Iverson Mumford. From the beginning, the church supported Civil Rights. Its second pastor, Dr. Thomas Kilgore Jr., was an associate of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who delivered a sermon here in 1955. Among Rev. Kilgore’s other local and national Civil Rights efforts, he led the church to found the House of Friendship Community Center, which, in 1963, became the National Headquarters for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, organized by Bayard Rustin. The congregation, still active today, was deeply involved in organizing the Harlem community’s participation in that historic March. In addition to its social and political significance, 170 West 130th Street’s façade is architecturally significant as the work of Vertner Woodson Tandy, the first African-American architect registered in New York State. The House of Friendship Community Center is located in the Central Harlem West — 130-132nd Street Historic District.
290 Broadway, Manhattan
2004-07, Memorial: Rodney Leon and Nicole Hollant-Denis
During the 18th century, when New York City was second only to Charleston, South Carolina, for its population of enslaved Africans, a roughly six-acre site north of present- day City Hall Park, then just outside the city’s northern border, was an African burial ground for an estimated 15,000 people, both free and enslaved. In 1794, the city closed the burial ground and leveled the hilly terrain with landfill to make way for development, thus preserving the burials below. Over time, the area was developed and the burial ground forgotten, much like the history and contributions of the African community itself. In October 1991, the General Services Administration (GSA), a federal agency, announced the rediscovery of intact burials and the remains of more than 400 people on the site of a planned federal office building at 290 Broadway. The GSA was criticized for its handling of the archaeological study and control was handed over to a team at the historically black Howard University. Because of strong activism by the African-American community, Congress passed and President George H. W. Bush signed a law to prohibit construction on the site where remains were found and to fund a memorial. The memorial opened in 2007 and a visitor center within 290 Broadway, run by the National Park Service, opened in 2010. The African Burial Ground is considered the largest colonial- era cemetery for enslaved African people, and in addition to being of great historical and spiritual significance, is a major resource for the study of the African diaspora. The African Burial Ground is part of the African Burial Ground & The Commons Historic District; a National Historic Landmark and listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places.
Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service.
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens
In 2006, the USTA National Tennis Center was rededicated as the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, in honor of King’s remarkable tennis career and her activism for women’s and LGBTQ rights. Between 1961 and 1979, King won 39 Grand Slam titles, including a record 20 Wimbledon titles. Both during the height of her career and after, King fought for equal prize money for women, who were paid considerably less than their male counterparts. In 1973, she formed the Women’s Tennis Association and was its first president. As a result of her advocacy, the U.S. Open became the first major tournament to offer equal prize money. In 1981, King was publicly outed as a lesbian in a palimony suit and lost all of her endorsement deals, yet she continued to fight against discrimination, and was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 for her advocacy work. The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is a major attraction in the last weeks of summer, when international crowds flock to Queens for the U.S. Open, one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world.
Photo by Ajay Suresh.
Fort Tryon Park, Manhattan
Margaret Cochran Corbin (1751-1800) was the first American woman to receive a military pension for her service during the Revolutionary War. When her husband, John Corbin, enlisted in the army to fight for the colonists, Margaret decided to go with him as a “camp follower” to cook, do laundry and nurse the wounded. On November 16, 1776, Corbin assisted her husband in operating a cannon during a Hessian attack on Fort Washington (today’s Fort Tryon). When John was fatally wounded, Margaret heroically took over his post and continued to fire at the enemy. Before the four-hour battle was through, she was severely wounded and nearly lost her left arm. In 1779, the Continental Congress awarded her a lifelong pension equivalent to half that of a male veteran. She died at age 49 and was buried in Highland Falls, NY, but in 1926, the Daughters of the American Revolution had her remains moved to the post cemetery at the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, where she is the only Revolutionary War soldier buried on the academy grounds. Today, a plaque in Fort Tryon Park honors her bravery and both the park drive and circle are named for her.
Photo courtesy of The New York Public Library.
555 Hudson Street, Manhattan
attributed to John Cole
From 1947 to 1968, this was the home of author, urban theorist and activist Jane Jacobs (1916-2006). While it is not certain that she wrote her 1961 seminal work “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” here, she did often reference her home in Greenwich Village while extolling the virtues of thriving urban settings with bustling sidewalks and small-scale, mixed-use buildings —like 555 Hudson. She wrote and spoke out against the then-rising practice of slum clearance and urban renewal, and was instrumental in the fight to save the South Village, SoHo and Little Italy from Robert Moses’ Lower Manhattan Expressway. Her work heavily influenced contemporary urban thought, despite urban planners who, at the time, criticized her lack of formal education. Today, her legacy is celebrated every May with Jane’s Walks — volunteer-led walking tours in urban neighborhoods — throughout the country. The Jane Jacobs residence is located in the Greenwich Village Historic District.
17 West 16th Street, Manhattan
From 1930 to 1973, this Greek Revival style townhouse was home to the clinic of birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger (1879-1966). Sanger moved to New York City in 1911 and began working
as a nurse on the Lower East Side, where she treated women with frequent births, miscarriages and self-induced abortions. At the time, birth control, a term she popularized, was not available in the United States, and the federal Comstock law of 1873 prohibited the distribution of information on the topic. She founded a monthly newsletter entitled The Woman Rebel in 1914, and was indicted for sending “obscene” material through the mail. In 1916, Sanger opened her first clinic in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and in 1921 she helped found the American Birth Control League, which later became known as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In 1930, she established a more permanent home for her Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau here at 17 West 16th Street, where research was performed, patients were treated and instructed on contraceptives, and medical professionals from across the country were educated about sex, contraception and disease. The building, today a private residence, still stands as a reminder of Margaret Sanger’s groundbreaking work to advance women’s health and quality of life. Margaret Sanger’s house is a NYC Individual Landmark and a National Historic Landmark.
Photo courtesy of Emilio Guerra.
208 East 13th Street, Manhattan
From 1903 to 1913, this tenement was the home of the anarchist and revolutionary Emma Goldman (1869-1940), a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania (then part of the Russian Empire). Goldman wrote and lectured in support of women’s rights, birth control, free speech, sexual freedom and labor unions. Beginning in 1906, she published a monthly periodical from this residence entitled Mother Earth, in which she and other radical thinkers and artists expressed their ideas. Her lectures, given all over the country, drew large crowds, and her activism led to multiple arrests, the last of which would be for her anti-draft activism at the beginning of the United States’ involvement in World War I. She and her long-time partner and fellow-anarchist, Alexander Berkman, were imprisoned for two years. After her release from prison in 1919, the federal government, under the Anarchist Exclusion Act, deported Goldman and 248 others, including Berkman, back to Russia. She continued to write and support her causes, spending time in England, Canada, France and Spain before she died in 1940 in Toronto, Canada.