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Weeksville - An Atlantis Rises in Brooklyn

Guest Author - Karen Joyce Williams

It lay undisclosed, silent and surrounded by ever-growing urban development for the better part of the 20th Century. Weeksville, a pre-Civil War, "free and intentional 19th Century African American community in Brooklyn, New York is rising like the City of Atlantis nearly 200 years after its founding and is one of the few pre-civil war African American sites of historic preservation in the United States.

The Weeksville Heritage Center, on Bergen Street off Rochester Avenue boasts a Weeksvillevisitor's center, research lab and three of the original 19th Century frame houses that were built on a old winding Dutch winding merchant road, previously an Algonquin path for hundreds of years. Originally called Hunterfly Road in Colonial New York, the winding thoroughfare cut through the center of modern-day neighborhood of Crown Heights.

Formed in 1838 by James Weeks, a free African American, the community was a response to New York State's abolition of slavery 11 years earlier and the growing desire of African Americans to be full members of society. In order to vote in New York, one needed to own property and James Weeks and others began buying land to build a community in Brooklyn. By the 1850's Weeksville had its own school, orphanage, newspaper, benevolent society and old age home. It was home to the first female African American physician in New York State and the first African American police officer in New York City. Weeksville had doctors, dentists, ministers, teachers, plumbers and laundrymen, all the elements of a vibrant citizenry. The community blossomed through the turn on the century and then virtually disappeared into the Brooklyn "grid".

Rediscovered in 1968 by a historian and his students by flying a plane over an area mentioned in a historical text on Brooklyn and there it was, the winding Hunterfly Road with frame homes set for demolition and the land for redevelopment. Over the last 30 years, the historic community's national preservation status was declared and the Weeksville Heritage Society was formed. Visitors may tour the original Hunterfly Road houses with a docent on weekdays or attend programs, and special events at the center. During spring and summer a weekly farmer's market is hosted on the grounds and by the end of 2011 Weeksville will be home to a new multi- million dollar educational and cultural complex with multiple galleries, a theater, classrooms and open space for recreating the agricultural life of the historic community.

Easy to reach by subway, bus or car, Weeksville is calling. Step back in time to Victorian parlors of a "free and intentional African American community" in the heart of Brooklyn.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Karen Joyce Williams. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Karen Joyce Williams. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.

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