7. Biaystoker Synagogue Has a Secret Door and Ladder, Said to Be Used in the Underground Railroad

Bialystoker Synagogue-Willet Street Episcopal Church-Tour-Lower East Side-Untapped Cities-NYC-010
Part of the oral history passed down through the community is the role of the building as a site for the Underground Railroad. If you head to the corner of the women’s gallery of the synagogue today, there is a camouflaged door. Behind it is a narrow opening with a wooden ladder that heads up to an attic space. There is no written record of the Willet Street Episcopal Church as an Underground Railroad site, but that was likely a deliberate choice given the activity. During and before the Civil War, churches in New York City often served as sites on the Underground Railroad, including Plymouth Church and the Brotherhood Synagogue (formerly a Quaker meeting house) on Gramercy Park.