intersection 08.7.17

Weeksville Heritage Center

Something about Weeksville lingers long past a visit there.

The Weeksville houses are located at 1698-1708 Bergen Street and built between 1840 and 1883, vestiges of the community built by free blacks in what is now Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy community.

Weeksville was formed by James Weeks, who bought land from the Lefferts family in 1838. Around him grew a close-knit community of several hundred, consisting of houses, churches, and a school. Out of Weeksville came a number of distinguished citizens, including Moses P. Cobb, the first black policeman in Brooklyn, as well as Dr. Susan Smith McKinney-Steward, one of the first black female physicians in the country.

Although slavery was abolished in New York state in 1827, communities like Weeksville provided a refuge against intolerance, particularly after the Draft Riots of 1863. Eventually the community became absorbed into Bed-Stuy and it wasn't until 1968 when the historian, James Hurley, led a workshop on Brooklyn neighborhoods at Pratt Neighborhood College that anyone actually bothered to look for Weeksville's remains. No one knew where it had been.

Hurley, with engineer and pilot Joseph Haynes, flew over Brooklyn, looking for lost Weeksville. Since the Hunterfly Road, on which these houses were situated, predated and did not conform to the borough's street plan (it had been a trail used by Native Americans), Messrs. Hurley and Haynes discovered from the air the four remaining clapboard houses. In August, 1970, the houses were landmarked and the Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant History was formed.

In 2014, a new space for exhibitions and cultural programs opened—a 23,000-square-foot, two-story beauty designed by the Caples Jefferson firm. An essential museum honoring the past now has one foot firmly planted in the future.

Group tours resume in September, offered Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can take a walk-in tour Tuesdays through Fridays at 3pm.

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