Posts Tagged ‘36 Lispenard’

The Underground Railroad stop in Tribeca

May 31, 2012

David Ruggles (right) was a brave man. Born a free African American in Connecticut in 1810, he moved to New York in the 1820s as a seaman and grocer.

A decade later, he became a leader in the city’s burgeoning abolitionist movement.

From his three-story home at 36 Lispenard Street, he operated a bookstore, printed his own anti-slavery pamphlets, and wrote for African-American newspapers.

He also opened his house to slaves fleeing the South who needed a place to stay before typically going upstate or to New England.

Through the 1830s and 1840s, an estimated 600 slaves hid out in his townhouse on Lispenard Street, one of a handful of known New York City stops on the Underground Railroad.

His most famous guest, in 1838, was Frederick Douglass, who wrote in The Century in 1882, “With Mr. Ruggles, on the corner of Lispenard and Church Streets, I was hidden several days. . . .”

Ruggles died in 1849 in Massachusetts, his work to end slavery in a city divided by the issue close to forgotten.

[Above left: 36 Lispenard Street today, a different building on the historic site. A plaque notes its history.]