Weeksville Heritage Center: one of NYC’s first free black pre-Civil War communities

Weeksville Heritage Center is a vibrant space nestled in the Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood. It is an official Partners in Preservation site.

Weeksville Heritage Center is a vibrant space nestled in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood. Upon entry, one is greeted by Weeksville employees eager to give a tour of the historic homes, community garden area and the open lawn used as a staging space for performances. When I visited, Brooklyn Academy of Music‘s  DanceAfrica performed in celebration of their 35 years of existence in New York City for Weeksville visitors. The positive energy of the dance troupe and smiling faces in the crowd revealed the type of creative and welcoming atmosphere Weekville nurtures as a staple in the the local community.

Instrument Used By the DanceAfrica Troupe

DanceAfrica’s Performance on the Weeksville Stage

The beauty of Weeksville is the history it lends to New York City. Weeksville is one of the country’s first free black communities formed before the Civil War. Currently, the existing property has four historic homes named the Hunterfly Road Houses. Each represents a different era in Weeksville’s history, which began when an African-American longshoreman named James Weeks bought this plot of land in present-day Crown Heights in 1838, 11 years after New York State abolished slavery.

a Historic Hunterfly Road House

Currently, Weeksville is expanding its facilities to include a 19,000 square foot Education and Cultural Arts building which accommodate a larger community garden space, a spacious common area and an updated outdoor stage. The new building will open in 2013. The improvement is needed in order to accommodate Weeksville’s expanding programs which include teaching teens how to garden, fostering youth volunteer initiatives and creating a community performance arts space.

Weeksville’s Current Community Garden Area

a Period Photo Opportunity

With potential funds from a Partners in Preservation grant (awarded through voting by readers like you),the organization hopes to  adapt an existing c. 1930 shed structure for an environmental and food-growing museum exhibit and program space and to recreate a root cellar — an historic feature since removed—in an existing c. 1870 house known as 1698 Bergen Street.

Click  here  to vote for Weeksville Heritage Center in Partners in Preservation and find out more about the center on Twitter and  Facebook. Follow Untapped Cities on  Twitter  and  Facebook.

Untapped Cities is an official blog ambassador for Partners in Preservation, a community-based initiative by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to raise awareness of the importance of historic places. Stay up-to-date with Untapped’s coverage of all 40 sites by following our Partners in Preservation category.

 BAM, Brooklyn, history, partners in preservation

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