Underground Railroad Stop Officially "Historic"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to make a dozen Chelsea row houses once used as an Underground Railroad stop a historic district.

The commission voted Tuesday to call the row houses the "Lamartine Place Historic District," according to the Associated Press.

Built in 1847, the houses sit on the north side of West 29th Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues. 339 W. 29th Street was the site of one Underground Railroad Station in New York where runaway slaves fleeing to Canada could stop, according to art historian Fern Luskin. Luskin was one of many who wrote letters to the commission asking that the houses be preserved.

"The house was once owned by the noted Quaker abolitionists and members of the Anti-Slavery Society, James Sloan Gibbons, and his wife, Abigail Hopper Gibbons," Luskin wrote in a 2007 letter.

Banker and philanthropist James Gibbons was the author of “We Are Coming Father Abra’am,” a poem which later became a Civil War anthem. Abigail Hopper Gibbons was a nurse during the Civil War, the president of the Hudson (German) Industrial School and worked in an orphanage on Randall’s island.

Luskin wrote that other abolitionists who stayed in or visited the Gibbons residence on 29th Street included Isaac Tatem Hopper, reformer and editor Horace Greeley, and John Brown. Brown led the Harpers Ferry raid in 1859.

Landmarks Preservation Commission Chairman Robert Tierney said some of the homes were attacked by opponents of the Emancipation Proclamation and burned and looted during the Civil War Draft Riots of 1863.

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