When I first moved to
I read every book I could get my hands on that was about the City, both current
and historical. That’s how I learned
about the Hunterfly Houses in Weeksville – a small section of Brooklyn
considered part of
and bounded by Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights Brownsville. Weeksville was described as a Pre-Civil War
African-American community. The homes still
standing are on the Register of Historic Places and Weeksville is officially called
Hunterfly Road Historic District.
I found the address for the Hunterfly Houses in a well-respected guidebook. It was about 3 miles from where I was living and I decided to walk there through Brownsville – traveling north on Ocean Avenue, continuing on where it turned into Empire Avenue, until I reached Utica St. and turned north. That took me to the address in the guidebook, but not to the houses – because, guess what, that guidebook was wrong. I asked people I met on the street if they knew where the Weeksville houses were and no one in the neighborhood seemed to know. So I walked around for about an hour until I found them at 1698 Bergen Street which was not the addressed listed in the book. The houses were closed on the day I walked up there – a fact the guidebook also neglected to mention – and they were surrounded by an iron fence with a locked gate, so I couldn’t even get a close look at the exterior or peer in the windows. (I wrote a letter to the guidebook publisher later when I got home).
|1698 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY|
Weeksville was founded in 1830 by freedman James Weeks, and the wood-frame homes that are still standing (and restored) date from that period up to 1880s. By 1850s, Weeksville was a thriving community of 500 people with a school, newspaper, cemetery (you have to wonder what is now built on top of it), old-age home, and a female doctor.
The buildings still standing most likely constituted “town square.” Certainly, they represent a rural life in
Brooklyn which is almost impossible to imagine
with every square inch now covered in concrete and brick. That was my interest. To see and imagine historic New
family owned a farm in Arkansas –
without running water or electricity until 1959 – and the kids went to a
one-room school house. That area of Arkansas
has satellite dishes and paved roads now, but it still feels very rural. So it was interesting to imagine Brooklyn
without electricity or indoor plumbing.
There is now a 19,000 square foot
. You have to wonder what the original
residents of Weeksville would have thought of that. Weeksville