Harriet and Thomas Truesdell House / 227 Duffield Street

STATUS Designated Individual Landmark

DATE: c. 1847‐50 and extended in 1933

STYLE: Greek Revival

Abolitionist Underground Railroad

Designated: February 2, 2021

227 Duffield Street dates from the mid-19th century, was home to Harriet and Thomas Truesdell from 1851 – 1863, and is the home where Harriet died in 1862. The Truesdells were intimately involved in the American Abolitionist movement, befriending such luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Lloyd Garrison. The Truesdells were associated with the house until the 1920’s.

Although the building has seen substantial alterations since Harriet and Thomas Truesdell’s residency, the essential truth of the house is still very evident. Visually, this is obviously a home of the mid-19th century. It is one of the few such remaining houses in the area and the only one left on this block after the devastation wrought by the 2004 rezoning. During that action, the history of this building was deeply researched. While its physical connection with Underground Railroad activities was inconclusive, its association with the Truesdells and the Abolitionist movement is unequivocal. This house is the last remaining connection to the dedicated Abolitionist community active in the area in the mid-19th century.

As such, it provides important context to the handful of other known Abolitionist sites of conscience in Brooklyn–such as Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims–by expanding the historic record to include domestic buildings as well as institutional and religious structures. It was not an accident that Henry Ward Beecher became more radicalized and fervent about Abolitionism while serving as pastor in the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims. The community was fertile ground for the cause, and placing the Truesdells within that history gives us a better perspective of the time and helps correct the fallacious impulse to ascribe one of the most important human rights movements in American history to the Great Man Theory.

It has been estimated that in 1790, a third of Brooklyn’s population were of African origin, the vast majority of whom were enslaved. In 1834, seven years after slavery in New York State ended and the year the City of Brooklyn was incorporated, an anti-abolition riot in Manhattan led many abolitionists to consider moving to Brooklyn. The village of Weeksville, established in 1838 by free Blacks, began to thrive, and the village of Williamsburg became a destination as well.

STATUS Designated Individual Landmark

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The Bedford-Stuyvesant community in northwest Brooklyn is a residential area, home to ornate rows of brownstones, early middle-class apartment buildings and several institutional structures. Bedford-Stuyvesant is characterized by its wide, tree-covered avenues and low-scale residences; generally only church spires and school towers rise taller than...

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