10. A Historic African American Neighborhood
The basin in front the park was once a neighborhood that collapsed in mudslide in 1906
Haverstraw is also has a long history of African American culture, that has only more recently celebrated and studied thanks to a surprising archeological excavation. In the 17th and 18th centuries, enslaved blacks were brought to Hudson Valley, and in Haverstraw, they worked at the brickyards. It is known that nearly 240 slaves were brought by the Dutch to Haverstraw and a community was forged that later included both enslaved and free slaves.
They settled in a neighborhood known as the Mudhole, which itself has a fascinating history because most of the neighborhood was destroyed in a massive landslide in 1906 that resulted from the mining of the blue clay that made the local brick so notable and the tunnels that were created beneath the embankment. 19 people, 6 streets and 21 buildings disappeared that day.
A century later, local resident Virginia Norfleet made a critical discovery when building her home in the Mudhole – and came across a brick with a cross in it. It turned out to be the cornerstone of the African Methodist Episcopal Bethel Church, founded during the Civil War. This has led to the founding of the Haverstraw African American Connection, the creation of the African-American Memorial Park in the Mudhole neighborhood as well as the founding of the annual Juneteeth Festival, that celebrates the end of slavery in the United States.
Norfleet told USA Today: “It was an awakening for me when I found the brick. Most of the African-Americans in Haverstraw, we didn’t understand the depth of our history because it’s never been told.