Brooklyn Community Rallies to Save House with Underground Railroad Ties

Community members in downtown Brooklyn gathered on Thursday to protest the planned demolition of a house located at 227 Duffield Street. Advocates argue that the property is an important part of the city’s Underground Railroad history and should be given official landmark status.

Prominent abolitionists Thomas and Harriett Lee-Truesdell owned the home at 227 Duffield in the 1850s. Property records indicate that tunnels were constructed to link the homes along Duffield Street. A previous owner of the property thought that it may have been connected to the former African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church nearby.

A 2007 attempt by the city to claim eminent domain over the property to build a parking garage failed after the former owner sued. As a result of this lawsuit, the city renamed Duffield Street “Abolitionist Place” to recognize its important history. However, the property does not have any protection. The current owner filed an application to demolish the building in June.

Activists believe the property should be given official landmark status and be turned into an Underground Railroad museum. Equality for Flatbush, an organization fighting gentrification in Brooklyn, wrote in a statement advertising the protest that “227 Duffield represents the last known standing property to continue the legacy of African American history of resistance in New York City.” A lawyer with Advocates for Justice is currently seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the owner while the Landmark Preservation Commission reviews an application to grant 227 Duffield landmark status.