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Guide to the Records of the
Friends of Hopper Gibbons Underground Railroad Site
and Lamartine Place Historic District
2005-2017
 MS 3136

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Joseph Ditta

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on February 10, 2021
English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Friends of Hopper Gibbons Underground Railroad Site and Lamartine Place Historic District (New York, N.Y.)
Title: Records of the Friends of Hopper Gibbons Underground Railroad Site and Lamartine Place Historic District
Dates [inclusive]: 2005-2017
Abstract: Documentation of the historic preservation efforts to recognize the house at 339 West 29th Street, Manhattan's only extant stop on the Underground Railroad, and home, during the Civil War Draft Riots of July 1863, to the abolitionist Gibbons family, who fled the attacking mob across the adjoining rooftops. In 2009 the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the house and its neighbors the Lamartine Place Historic District, after the mid-19th century development's original name.
Quantity: 3 Linear feet in 3 record cartons.
Location: Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please contact manuscripts@nyhistory.org prior to your research visit to coordinate access. Keep in mind that it will take between two (2) and five (5) business days for collections to arrive, and you should plan your research accordingly.
Language: .
Call Phrase: MS 3136

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Historical Note

Beginning in 1846 developers Cyrus Mason and William Torrey built a row of houses on the north side of West 29th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea. The predominantly Greek Revival-style buildings faced a green space across the street, Lamartine Park, apparently named for Alphonse de Lamartine, who played a role in the French Revolution of 1848. To boost sales Mason and Torrey rechristened the block "Lamartine Place." (Similarly, West 28th Street became the more distinctive "Fitzroy Place.") The development attracted prominent residents, such as the philanthropists James Sloan Gibbons (1810–1892) and his wife, Abby (Hopper) Gibbons (1801–1893), who purchased No. 19 Lamartine Place in 1852. Noted abolitionists, the Gibbons family made their home a stop on the Underground Railroad, where they usually sheltered, fed, and supplied the needs of several escaping slaves at once. Notable visitors to the home included Horace Greeley, Lydia Maria Child, and William Lloyd Garrison.

The Gibbonses were staunch Republicans who supported the Civil War as an evil necessary to ending slavery. With the discovery that those who could afford a surrogate could buy their way out of conscription, violent mobs (probably organized by agitators) stormed New York on July 13–16, 1863, attacking known sites of abolitionist activity. Aware that their home was likely to be hit, Julia and Lucy Gibbons (daughters of James and Abby) carried some of their belongings over the rooftops to an uncle's house down the street. The mob came on July 14, chanting "Greeley! Gibbons! Greeley! Gibbons!" and looted the home, passing what they could through the windows, trampling what they could not. Forced by the militia to disperse, the rioters regrouped and set fire to 19 Lamartine Place. The house was damaged, but thankfully not destroyed. By then the Gibbons family was ensconced in their relative's home, but still at risk. A friend, finding them there, led them back over the rooftops toward Ninth Avenue and down to a carriage and safety.

Despite the burning of No. 19, Lamartine Place survived the New York City Draft Riots. The street name eventually reverted to West 29th. Its houses stood largely intact into the early 21st century, wearing the minor alterations common to 150-year-old rowhouses. One day in April 2007, Fern Luskin, a professor of art history at LaGuardia Community College and resident of the block, noticed a penthouse addition going up atop one of the houses. Distressed that its increased height would mar the uniform appearance of the row, she began to investigate the legality of the construction. In her research Luskin uncovered the by-then forgotten history of the development, how it had once been called Lamartine Place, and how it had once been home to the abolitionist Gibbons family. Remarkably, their house—now renumbered 339 West 29th Street—was the very one being disfigured by an addition that was erasing its roof and all trace of their Draft Riots escape.

The efforts of Luskin, fellow activist Julie M. Finch, and other concerned residents and elected officials, brought wide recognition to the Hopper Gibbons house as Manhattan's only extant, documented stop on the Underground Railroad. On October 13, 2009, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated 339 West 29th Street and its neighboring buildings the Lamartine Place Historic District. By law, buildings so designated cannot be demolished or altered without consent of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Despite this, the owner of 339 West 29th Street continued work on the rooftop alteration under expired and revoked permits, claiming (falsely) that construction had happened before the designation. After protracted legal actions, on May 18, 2017, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the New York City Department of Buildings ruled in favor of the Friends of Hopper Gibbons Underground Railroad Site and Lamartine Place Historic District (as Luskin, Finch, and their associates came to be called): they ordered the owner to remove the addition and restore the roofline to its historic height.

For a fuller history of the block and the work of Finch, Luskin, et al., see the Lamartine Place Historic District Designation Report, and Dusica Sue Malesevic, "Preservationists Win: Hopper-Gibbons House Owner Ordered to Subtract Addition" in  The Villager, May 24, 2017.

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Scope and Contents

This collection documents efforts by the Friends of Hopper Gibbons Underground Railroad Site and Lamartine Place Historic District, led by Fern Luskin and Julie M. Finch, to recognize and preserve no. 339 West 29th Street (originally called 19 Lamartine Place), Manhattan's only extant stop on the Underground Railroad and home, during the Draft Riots of July 1863, to abolitionists James Sloan and Abby (Hopper) Gibbons, whose family fled across the adjoining rooftops to escape the attacking mob. Through clippings, email printouts, financial records, fliers, letters, press releases, and research notes dating between 2005 and 2017, the collection details the eventual designation by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission of the Hopper Gibbons House and its neighboring buildings as the Lamartine Place Historic District, and recounts the protracted litigation against an illegal rooftop addition constructed by the owner of 339 West 29th Street.

Arrangement

With some slight alterations (e.g., topical groupings and title expansions), the files in this collection remain in the chronological order in which they were received. Records maintained separately by Fern Luskin are filed after the main sequence.

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Access Points

Document Type

  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • DVDs.
  • Financial records.
  • Fliers (printed matter)
  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Press releases.
  • Printouts
  • Research notes.
  • Testimonies.

Subject Organizations

  • Friends of Hopper Gibbons Underground Railroad Site and Lamartine Place Historic District (New York, N.Y.) -- Records

Subject Topics

  • Abolitionists -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Draft Riot, New York, N.Y., 1863
  • Historic preservation -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Underground Railroad -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Chelsea (Manhattan, New York, N.Y.)
  • Lamartine Place Historic District (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.) -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers. The collection includes occasional DVDs. These digital formats are currently restricted from use in order to ensure that the files are not accidentally corrupted. N-YHS will be developing procedures to properly handle digital media and this content will be opened in the future after those procedures are established and implemented.

Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please contact manuscripts@nyhistory.org prior to your research visit to coordinate access. Keep in mind that it will take between two (2) and five (5) business days for collections to arrive, and you should plan your research accordingly.

Use Restrictions

This collection is owned by the New-York Historical Society. The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder. Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to 20 exposures of stable, unbound material per day.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as: Records of the Friends of Hopper Gibbons Underground Railroad Site and Lamartine Place Historic District, MS 3136, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Materials

The New-York Historical Society holds two typescript versions of Lucy Gibbons Morse's "Personal Recollections of the Draft Riots of 1863" in which she describes her family's experiences at 19 Lamartine Place (today's 339 West 29th Street) on July 14, 1863: AHMC - Morse, Lucy Gibbons and F128.44 .M88 Oversize.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Friends of Hopper Gibbons Underground Railroad Site and Lamartine Place Historic District, via co-chairs Julie M. Finch and Fern Luskin, 2019 (accession no. MS-2019-006).

Processing Information

Archivist Joseph Ditta arranged and described this collection in August-September 2019.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 1 339 West 29th Street. Department of Buildings violations [5 folders in 1]
2005, 2007, 2008
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 2 339 West 29th Street. Photos and plans [2 folders in 1]
2007
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 3 Contact lists, to-do lists [3 folders in 1]
2008-?
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 4-5 [Emails, correspondence, general] [7 folders in 2]
2008 February - December
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 6 Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance
2008
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 7 Historic Districts Council
2008
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 8 New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission [2 folders in 1]
2008
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 9 New York Landmarks Conservancy
2008
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 10-12 New York State Historic Preservation Office [11 folders in 3]
2008
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 13 Preservation League of New York State [2 folders in 1]
2008
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 14 Gibbons Quaker House
2008
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 15 [Elected officials and others] [9 folders in 1]

Scope and Contents

Files for Colin Casey / Tom Duane (New York State Senate); Bill Clinton; Gregory Dietrich (Cultural Resource Consulting Group); Justin Ferate (tour guide); Richard N. Gottfried (New York State Assembly); H + H Building Consultants; Jerrold Nadler / Micah Lasher (U.S. House of Representatives, New York's 8th District); Christine Quinn (New York City Council Speaker); Carl Westmoreland / Fergus Bordewich (Underground Railroad scholars).

2008-2009
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 16 Abby Hopper Gibbons @ Swathmore
2008
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 17 Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association [2 folders in 1]
2008-2009
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 18 Underground Railroad [4 folders in 1]
2008-2009
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 19-20 [Emails, correspondence, general] [9 folders in 2]
2009
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 21 Fifteenth Street Monthly Meeting & Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse [3 folders in 1]
2009
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 22 New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission [4 folders in 1]
2009
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 23 Press [2 folders in 1]
2009
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 24 339 West 29th Street. Department of Buildings applications, permits, violations, etc. [6 folders in 1]
2009-2010
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 25 Photos - dated - BSA & court
2007-2010
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 26 Boilerplate "mission statement," advisory committee, Fern's letter
2008-2011
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 27 339 West 29th Street. Department of Buildings violations, FOIA, etc. [5 folders in 1]
2009-2011
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 1 City Council
2010 January 26
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 2 Underground Railroad conference [2 folders in 1]
2010
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 3 Gibbons general & backup [2 folders in 1]
2010-2011
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 4 Loose material
2010-2011
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 5 Interview
2011
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 6 My [Fern Luskin's?] speech, Victorian Society
2011
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 7 Hopper Gibbons timelines [5 folders in 1]
2011-2012
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 8 Lamartine Place Historic District marker unveiling [6 folders in 1]
2011-2012
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 9-13 New York City Board of Standards and Appeals [14 folders in 5]
2012
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 14 29th Street Block Association
2012
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 15-16 Gibbons press clips [5 folders in 2]
circa 2008-2016
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 17 Quaker-formed groups / Women's Prison Association
undated
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 18 Friends of Hopper Gibbons Underground Railroad Site fundraiser [6 folders in 1]
2013
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 19 New York City Board of Standards and Appeals
2013
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 20-21 New York State Supreme Court [4 folders in 2]
2013
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 22 Press conferences
2013
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 23 Loose material
[2013?]
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 24 Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
[2013?]
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 25 Historic Districts Council financial accounts
2013-2014
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 26 2nd appeal Gibbons [2 folders in 1]
2014 July
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 27 Letters of support
2014-2015
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 27 Loose material
2014-2015
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 1 Historic Districts Council financial accounts
2015-2016
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 2 Advisory committee [2 folders in 1]
2016
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 3 Friends of the Hopper Gibbons Underground Railroad Site fundraiser [2 folders in 1]
2016
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 4 General [4 folders in 1]
2016
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 5 Loose material
2015-2017
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 6 New York City Department of Buildings / Community Board 4 [5 folders in 1]
2016
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 7 New York City Department of Buildings lawsuit [3 folders in 1]
2016
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 8 New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission [7 folders in 1]
2016
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 9 Press conference
2016
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 10 Retainer fiscal agent
2016
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 11 West 29th Street owners
[2016?]
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 12 New York City Department of Buildings
2016-2017
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 13 Mailing list [2 folders in 1]
2017
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 14 New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
2017
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 15 Fern Luskin files. Meetings
2007
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 16 Fern Luskin files. 29th Street Certificates of Occupancy & Zoning Code [2 folders in 1]
2007
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 17 Fern Luskin files. 339 West 29th Street photos
2007-2012
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 18 Fern Luskin files. 339 West 29th Street Department of Buildings violations, audits [2 folders in 1]
2007-2017
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 19 Fern Luskin files. Correspondence
2007-2009
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 20 Fern Luskin files. Architectural Plans & My Calculations
[2007-2010]
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 21 Fern Luskin files. Legal Papers, Part 1
2007-2016
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 22 Fern Luskin files. Legal papers, part 2
2007-2016
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 23 Fern Luskin files. Legal papers, part 3
2007-2016
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 24 Fern Luskin files. Petitions, flyers, news clippings [2 folders in 1]
2007-2016
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 25 Fern Luskin files. New York State Historic Preservation Office application
2008
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 26 Fern Luskin files. [Award speeches] [3 folders in 1]

Scope and Contents

Includes Historic Districts Council Grassroots Preservation Award (2009), Victorian Society Preservation Advocacy Award (2011), and Chelsea Reform Democratic Club Doris Corrigan Award (2013).

2009-2013
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 27 Fern Luskin files. Fern's speeches
2009-2014
Offsite-Box: 3 Folder : 28 Fern Luskin files. DVDs of all Hopper-Gibbons House Records & Photographs [5 discs]

Restricted

The digital media is currently restricted from use in order to ensure that the files are not accidentally corrupted. N-YHS will be developing procedures to properly handle digital media and this content will be opened in the future after those procedures are established and implemented.

undated

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