LPC Votes Unanimously to Designate Downtown Brooklyn Abolitionist Home as Historic Landmark

Photo by Susan De Vries


In a sudden move, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the former Downtown Brooklyn home of abolitionists as a landmark this morning.

The commissioners were unanimous in their approval.

“This is an exciting day,” said LPC Chair Sarah Carroll. “[The house] retains much of its fabric, and that fabric still conveys the period when Downtown Brooklyn was very active with abolitionist activity.” No other commissioners provided comments.

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The building in October 2020. Photo by Craig Hubert

For many, this has been a long time coming. The vote follows decades of struggle to preserve the pre Civil War home of abolitionists Thomas and Harriet Truesdell at 227 Duffield Street. During the pandemic, the process has been fast tracked: the property was placed on the LPC agenda in June 2020, calendared and, less than two weeks later, a public hearing was held, where more than 40 advocates spoke overwhelmingly in favor of landmarking the property.

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The house in 2019. Photo by Susan De Vries

The Greek Revival-style house was constructed circa 1847 to 1850 and was home to the Truesdells, prominent abolitionists, from 1851 to 1863. After it was saved from a threat of eminent domain, LPC chose not to move forward with considering the building back in 2007. During the calendaring hearing in June, LPC Chair Sarah Carroll noted that Mayor de Blasio asked the commission to reconsider the designation of the historic structure.

The building has a tangled ownership history and records of low payments to longtime owners by developers. At points, developers and partners Samiel Hanasab and Yuval Golan have been listed as owners on DOB documents; both have had legal issues over unusually low payments to families of longtime owners of properties in Brooklyn and beyond. In 2019, the owners of 227 Duffield Street filed plans to demolish the historic house and put up a 13-story mixed-use building in its place.

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The brick home in 2019. Photo by Susan De Vries

The designation comes on the heels of the city choosing artist Kameelah Janan Rasheed to erect a text-based public art installation inspired by the area’s long history in the fight to abolish slavery at Willoughby Square Park, which adjoins the historic home. The plan received mixed reactions from Community Board 2 during a recent presentation.

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