April 25, 2024

Photo by Jan Somma-Hammel/Staten ISland Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — It took years to collect artifacts, like the tools from Joseph W. Bishop’s blacksmith shop which operated from a wooden barn in Rossville for over 125 years; the handmade quilts that pointed to the direction of freedom for those who escaped the shackles of slavery via the Underground Railroad; and old-fashioned tintype photos from the 1800s featuring the images of residents of Sandy Ground, the nation’s oldest free Black settlement still inhabited by descendants of the original settlers.

But that museum, which has fallen into a complete state of disrepair over the last few years, has become unhabitable. It needs a new roof, complete mold remediation, new plumbing and more. All the museum’s historic relics sit boxed in a storage facility, hidden from the many school children and tourists who used to visit year-round to learn about Sandy Ground and its history.
However, a major step in restoring the museum and this important historic community has finally transpired.
The New York Landmarks Conservancy — a more than 50-year-old organization that provides financial and technical assistance to owners of historic properties — issued a grant to the Sandy Ground Historical Society to help restore the museum. The first step occurred on Monday, when the organization hired a company to complete an investigation of the structure to determine what species of mold is growing in the building, said Blaire Walsh, director of preservation services for the Conversancy.
“This is definitely just the beginning of what will probably be a larger project. We would really love to see this building go back into use,” she said. “We would love to get it back to a condition where they [the Historical Society] can continue to use the building again.”

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