Mapping Weeksville

Recently, BHS staff had the privilege of touring the historic Hunterfly Road Houses at the Weeksville Heritage Center (WHC) in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The houses are original structures dating from the 1840s to the 1880s, and offer an intimate look into the lives of African Americans in Brooklyn. Founded by James Weeks in 1838, Weeksville was a free African American community with an independent infrastructure, including schools, an orphanage, churches, and newspapers.

Below are some images that I took during our visit to WHC:

Hunterfly Road Houses at Weeksville Heritage Center.


Hunterfly Road Houses at Weeksville Heritage Center.

After visiting WHC, I was inspired to see if Weeksville was represented in the BHS Map Collection. In particular, I was curious to see if Weeksville was shown on 19th century maps of Brooklyn. The results were interesting; although I did find Weeksville represented on a handful of maps, the majority did not show the community. The reason for this omission is not clear from the maps themselves, and is open to interpretation.

First, an example from 1856 that shows some of the infrastructure of Weeksville, although the map does not actually have the name Weeksville on it. The community was located in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and its modern-day boundaries are roughly Atlantic Ave., Kingston Ave., St. John’s Place, and Ralph Ave. On the following map, you will see the former site of Berean Baptist Church as well as “P. Col. S. No. 2,” which stands for “Public Colored School No. 2.”

Detail from: Map of the city of Brooklyn : being the former cities of Brooklyn & Williamsburgh and the town of Bushwick. Matthew Dripps. 1856. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Next, an example from 1849 that says Weeksville. Unfortunately, the map was dissected and mounted on linen, and “Weeksville” is on the dissection line.

Detail from: Sidney's map of twelve miles around New York : with the names of property holders, &c. J.C. Sidney. 1849. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

The final example is from a map of the area around New York City, from 1852:

Detail from: Map of the country thirty three miles around the city of New York. J.H. Colton. 1852. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Visiting WHC was an amazing experience, and if you’d like to learn more about the vibrant history of Weeksville, visit the WHC website. You can also read more about In Pursuit of Freedom, BHS’ partnership with WHC and the Irondale Ensemble Project, on the BHS website.


About Carolyn

Carolyn is the Project Map Cataloger on a grant-funded project until May 2012. When not reveling in all things cartographic, she enjoys knitting and exploring Brooklyn.
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