Weeksville

 

In the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, a small cluster of modest wooden houses links today's New York with the early 19th century – a time when this area was home to a solid community of free blacks and runaway slaves. Believed to be a stop on the Underground Railroad, many were initially attracted to the area because slavery was outlawed in New York. In 1863, after the draft riots against Union conscription, blacks continued to seek refuge in this already-established community known as Weeksville.  

A Virginia longshoreman and former slave named James Weeks bought the land in 1838. Today, four cottages are all that remain. The houses gained attention in 1968 when a historian and a pilot conducting an aerial survey spotted some old wooden cottages on a half-hidden road. When they investigated the grass-covered site, they found the remains of the Weeksville neighborhood on an old road once used by Native Americans as a trade route. Two years later, New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Hunterfly Road Houses a landmark, and in 1972, the houses were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

For the next 34 years, the nonprofit Weeksville Heritage Center worked to preserve the historic Hunterfly Road Houses and to use the site to help new generations of local children understand and appreciate their heritage. 

That dream was finally made possible in 2005, thanks in large part to Save America's Treasures. Almost $10 million in public and private support was raised to restore the four historic houses and to develop an adjacent museum and education center. Save America's Treasures jump started the fundraising campaign by awarding the center a $400,000 federal Save America's Treasures grant, which generated over $1 million in private matching funds. In addition to attracting important corporate partners like HGTV and Lowes, Save America's Treasures brought in Goldman Sachs, which played an instrumental role in creating new attention and additional resources to this previously neglected area, including substantial investment from the City and Burrough of Brooklyn.  

Thanks to these efforts and the interest generated at both the national and local levels, the official opening in June 2005 was the culmination of a long-awaited dream – Weeksville lives, and its restoration has revived and sparked new investment in the community that surrounds it.