5.23.2018

GDW EMERGENCY EVENT ALERT - Black History on the Chopping Block ABOLITION HALL SLATED FOR DEMOLITION IN WHITE MARSH!! Take a Stand!

By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Hello All:


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Announcement of Public Hearing on ABOLITION HOUSE AND OTHER UNDERGROUND RAILROAD BUILDINGS IN WHITEMARSH





I'm going to start of with the bottom line:

ATTEND THE HEARING IN A SHOW OF SOLIDARITY FOR THE PRESERVATION OF BLACK HISTORICAL LANDMARKS

WHAT:  An Underground Railroad Historic Site, ABOLITION HALL is scheduled for demolition in 
Whitemarsh - The Whitemarsh Town Council is deliberatIng over the fate of our Black History 

WHEN:  PUBLIC HEARING 
Thursday, May 24, 2018, at 7:00 PM  

WHERE:  Whitemarsh Township Building 6l6 Germantown Pike in Lafayette Hill (next to Chestnut Hill)

WHO: Black Philadelphians (and people of good will) must show up for a peaceful demonstration to ensure that our history is preserved and honored

HOW:  ATAC (Avenging the Ancestors Coalition) is providing transportation and information to those who need it to attend the hearing
CALL: 215.552.8751 OR email ATAC@avengingtheancestors.com for a seat on the bus to Whitemarsh

A peaceful demonstration coordinated by Friends of Abolition House to preserve our history and protect this landmark -- Black people are asked to just quietly observe and be a PRESENCE to make sure Whitemarsh and K. Hovnanian (developers) know that Black people are aware and concerned about the fate of ABOLITION HOUSE AND OUR HISTORIC BUILDINGS, and the establishment of permanent monuments in keeping with the magnitude and significance of their place in OUR HISTORY!!

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Abolition House and several other UNDERGROUND RAILROAD BUILDINGS may be slated for demolition or obscurity. 



Now here are the facts:

It appears that K. Hovnanian, a major national development company that has complexes all over the East Coast and Midwest, has purchased 10.5 acres of land near Chestnut Hill in the Whitemarsh Township area, with the intention of building 67 town houses on the property. Generally there would be nothing remarkable about this, just another cookie cutter K. Hovnanian development going up - Except for the fact that they are building these townhomes on historic land that was part of HARRIETT TUBMAN'S UNDERGROUND RAILROAD!!!

Since Whitemarsh Township is predominantly white, the fact that the Underground Railroad monument was there would probably go completely unnoticed. But, as so aptly articulated by ATAC's Michael Coard, Friends of Abolition Hall, a grass roots organization, have come together to protect the sanctuary - "In the same spirit as John Brown and so many other whites who were against slavery and did what they could to help."  

As it turns out, Philadelphia has many UNDERGROUND RAILROAD sites, and a long history in helping Black people escape the horrors of slavery, shielding them from discovery and making sure they had safe passage to Canada.  The buildings in Whitemarsh are over 400 years old and have been maintained, are part of the National Registry, as well as National Landmarks.   

According to one of the lead members, who spoke via phone on a call in: 

We came together about two years ago when we got word that a real estate developer had signed an agreement of sale to purchase a 10.5 acre parcel of land at the intersection of  Germantown Pike is the same as Germantown Avenue – it changes from Avenue to Pike when you cross City Avenue. So at this intersection is this 10.5 acre parcel of land, but it's not just any parcel of land – this was a documented stop on the UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. There's a long history about this property. It's deep in the history of this community. It's written history! It's oral history! This piece of land is recognized by the United States Department of the Interior and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, because it was a stop on the Underground Railroad; and later it was the home of the studio of a famous artist, who painted “The Last Moments of John Brown,” the activist/abolitonist who devoted his life to the cause and went to the gallows for it. 

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Harriet Tubman who led hundreds of Black people to freedom via the UNDERGROUND RAILROAD 



The Caller Continued: "So this property, which is called the ABOLITION HOUSE, comprised of several structures, is the old farm house, including the stone house and another building.  Abolition Hall was used as seed gathering spot of escaping slaves and fugitves escaping slavery. They could gather here and not be afraid of being shamed, cursed at, or harmed in any way. 

"The person who built Abolition Hall was George Corson. This was his property. He was a farmer, merchant, lineberger. He raised his family here, and when he passed, his daughter and son-in-law raised their family here. This property has been in the same family's hands since the lat 1700s; and it was only now (in the 21st century) that their decendants have decided to sell it. 

"What the developer is proposing to do is to build 67 townhouses on this hallowed ground. What he is planning to do is not to destroy this historic property; He is planning to separate the buildings from the field where he is planning to build 67 town houses. So he's isolating those historic stuctures from the fields that are so much a part of the history. So as a story of the UNDERGROND RAILROAD with history of saving people from being dragged back into slavery. Many of them came from Germantown – this was the first stop just outsde the city. And so people may have been at the Johnson House in Germantown near Washington Lane, and he would be given sanctuary there by the Johnson Family. And then, in the cover of darkness, they were taken to Plymouth Meeting, and from there they were taken 7 miles up to Germantown Pike to the next safehouse where they sheltered until they could be passed on to the next safehouse, getting ever closer to the Canadian Border, where, once they crossed that border, they knew that they were indeed safe.

“So we've been fighting for two years to save this property. We're not arguing whether or not the development should not happen; but we're arguing that because of this extraordinary legend – because of its role in the Underground Railroad, it deserves something better. It deserves more land to be allocated around the historic buildings. It deserves public access so that people can come into the park and learn about the history of the Underground Railroad; the people who sought shelter here, and the families that provided sanctuary. It deserves more breathing room and it deserves to be given a chance to be something wonderful; to preserve the history of these buildings.So we are engaged in a fight which is taking place in the township building in Whitemarch. We are engaged in a series of hearings; and these hearings are in this instance where the judge is our governing board – which is our board of supervisors, and they are sitting judgment on this plan, determining whether the plan meets the requirements of the township's code. And we are arguing that it doesn't, but as you can imagine, the developer has very deep pockets, represented by a very aggressive attorney, who insists that they have met all the of the township and they simply just want them to say this is fine, this is great, just go ahead and do what you want with our little township and later for history.

The Caller Concluded:
"The next hearing is this Thursday night, May 24, 2018, at 7:00PM, and we would be deeply appreciative if you would be present at this hearing to fill a seat, and be there an bear witness to this and to convey the message that this place matters – to bear witness to our place in history and its meaning to the millions of lives that have been saved as the result of their heroism and generosity -as modern day people, we have the responsibility to preserve this legacy and DEMAND SOMETHNG BETTER!!”


Michael Coard, who made it possible for the caller to address the group via phone at a recently held meeting  spoke of the urgent need to be present and take a stand to protect and preserve our historical monuments, expressed appreciation for the caller, who is white, and her group, Friends of Abolition House, wrapped up the session by stating, “We appreciate what you're trying to do – I will call you tomorrow with some ind of idea of how many people from Philly to expect."

According to Michael Coard, the ABOLITION HOUSE, is part of State Senator Vincent Hughes constituency, who has been made aware of the situation. 

Make it you business to show up - this is a peaceful demonstration - a show of solidarity - but they can't see it if we aren't there!!  Make it your business to be counted and stand for your ancestors who sacrificed so much so that we could be free.

NOW THAT YOU KNOW
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

Stay Blessed & 
ECLECTICALLY BLACK
Gloria

For additional information read:  


https://hiddencityphila.org/2016/04/historic-estate-and-underground-railroad-station-under-threat-in-plymouth-meeting/