Weeksville was named after James Weeks, an African-American stevedore from Virginia, who in 1838 bought a plot of land from Henry C. Thompson (another free African-American) in the Ninth Ward of central Brooklyn (just 11 years after the abolition of slavery in New York State). The village itself was established by a group of African American land investors and political activists, and covered an area bounded by present-day Fulton Street, East New York Avenue, Ralph Avenue and Troy Avenue. A 1906 article in the New York Age recalling the earlier period noted that James Weeks "owned a handsome dwelling at Schenectady and Atlantic Avenues."
By the 1850s, Weeksville had more than 500 residents from all over the East Coast (as well as two people born in Africa). Almost 40 percent of residents were southern-born, and nearly one-third of the men over 21 owned land. The village had its own churches (including Bethel Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Berean Missionary Baptist Church), a school ("Colored School no. 2", now P.S. 243), a cemetery, and an old age home. Weeksville had one of the first African-American newspapers, the Freedman's Torchlight, and in the 1860s became the national headquarters of the African Civilization Society and the Howard Orphan Asylum. During the violent New York Draft Riots of 1863, the community served as a refuge for many African-Americans who fled from Manhattan.
Rediscovery of Weeksville and the Hunterfly Road Houses
The search for Historic Weeksville began in 1968 in a Pratt College workshop on Brooklyn and New York City neighborhoods led by historian James Hurley. After reading of Weeksville in Brooklyn's Eastern District, a 1942 book by Brooklyn historian Eugene Ambruster, Hurley and Joseph Haynes, a local resident and pilot, consulted old maps and flew over the area in an airplane in search of surviving evidence of the village.
Four historic houses (now known as the Hunterfly Road Houses) were discovered off Bergen Street between Buffalo and Rochester Avenues, facing an old lane—a remnant of Hunterfly Road, which was at the eastern edge of the 19th century village.
Weeksville Heritage Center
Hunterfly Road Historic District
Hunterfly Road House, August 2009
|Location||1698, 1700, 1702, 1704, 1706, 1708 Bergen St., New York, New York|
|Area||2 acres (0.81 ha)|
|NRHP Reference #||
|Added to NRHP||December 5, 1972|
The 1968 discovery of the Hunterfly Road Houses led to the formation of The Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant History (now the Weeksville Heritage Center).
Hunterfly Road Historic District is a national historic district. It consists of four contributing residential buildings built about 1830 parallel to the line of a Colonial road and on the edge of the 19th century free Black community of Weeksville. Hunterfly Road was subsequently closed in 1835. They are one and one half to 2 1⁄2-story wood-frame dwellings.
In 1970 the houses were declared New York City Landmarks, and in 1972 were placed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Hunterfly Road Historic District. The houses were purchased by the Society in 1973.
The houses were rehabilitated in the 1980s, and again after vandalism in the 1990s. In 2005, following a $3 million restoration, the houses reopened to the public as the Weeksville Heritage Center, with each house showcasing a different era of Weeksville history.
Construction of an 19,000-square-foot (1,800 m2) education and cultural center adjacent to the houses is almost complete.
- Ramirez, Anthony (June 5, 2005). "Haven for Blacks in Civil War Riots Now Safeguards History". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-09.
- Christian, Nichole M. (October 29, 2001). "Hidden in Brooklyn, A Bit of Black History; Freedmen's Homes Seen as Attraction". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-09.
- Cantwell, Anne-Marie; Wall, Diana diZerega (2003). Unearthing Gotham: The Archaeology of New York City. Yale University Press. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-300-09799-3.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
- Stephen Lash and Betty Ezequelle (undated). "National Register of Historic Places Registration:Hunterfly Road Historic District". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2011-03-12. See also: "Accompanying two photos".
- "Weeksville Buys Historic Houses; Sees Cost of $200,000". The New York Times. June 24, 1973. Retrieved 2010-07-09.
- Lake, Edwin B. (March 27, 1983). "Brooklyn Restoration Recalls Black History". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-09.
- Martin, Douglas (February 9, 1991). "About New York; In Black History, Reconstruction Is Also a Struggle". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-09.
- "Weeksville Heritage Center - About Us".