Posts Tagged ‘Hopper Gibbons House’

Did the Underground Railroad stop in Chelsea?

January 24, 2011

The underground Railroad didn’t skip New York City.

Safe havens for runaway slaves existed in Brooklyn—such as Brooklyn Heights’ Plymouth Church. And the John Bowne House, in Flushing, was also rumored to have been a hideout.

But in Manhattan, the only known Underground Railroad site that still exists is the row house at 339 West 29th Street (Ivy-covered in 1932).

Built in the 1840s on what was then called Lamartine Place, number 339 was owned by James S. Gibbons and his staunch abolitionist wife, Abigail Hopper Gibbons.

According to the Landmarks Preservation Committee Report that declared the house and its neighbors the Lamartine Historic District:

“In his memoirs, the American lawyer and diplomat Joseph Hodges Choate who was a friend of the Gibbons family recollects dining with the Gibbons and a fugitive slave at No. 339 in 1855, citing the residence as a stop on the Underground Railroad.”

No. 339 (in the center, under scaffolding and a new facade) was also attacked and burned in the 1863 Draft Riots, when roving mobs of New Yorkers upset about new draft laws killed African-Americans.

A house with history like that can’t escape scrutiny—which is probably why the city ordered the current owner to tear down the illegal fifth floor that was recently added.