John Gilmore Riley House
John G Riley House
|NRHP reference #||78000950|
|Added to NRHP||August 1, 1978|
John G. Riley
John G. Riley was a prominent member of the African-American community in Tallahassee. He was born a slave in 1857 and died a millionaire in 1954.[how?] Riley was the principal of the Lincoln Academy from 1892 until 1926. This school was later named Lincoln High School. The house, a vernacular wood-framed home, was constructed in 1895 and remained in the family until 1970. Today it is known as the John G. Riley Center/Museum of African American History and Culture.
Constructed in 1890, the Riley House is the last physical evidence of a thriving middle-class African-American community that existed in downtown Tallahassee at the turn of the 20th century. More than a historical landmark, the house is a noble witness to progress and the ability of its owner to succeed despite the odds. Unlike many other historic facilities in Tallahassee, the Riley House has humble beginnings. There was no dramatic transfer by will; neither did it come with a trust account or other means to help sustain operations or address perpetual needs of maintenance and security.
The original owner, John Gilmore Riley, was born into slavery in 1857. A largely self-taught person, he was chosen on December 1, 1881, to teach at the Lincoln Academy in Tallahassee, and on September 10, 1892 he was selected principal of the school and served until retirement in 1926. Lincoln was one of three freedmen schools in Florida to provide secondary instruction for former slaves and their descendents.
The Riley House was abandoned in 1973. It was restored in 1981 and purchased by the John G. Riley Foundation, Inc. and established as a museum in December 1995. It features an animatronic, speaking figure of Riley, donated by Disney.
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