June 22, 2024

Photo by the Staten Island Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — This time last year, Julie Moody Lewis stood outside the weathered, century-old white ranch home that once housed the Sandy Ground Historical Society Museum, seeking help from anyone in the community who would listen. Inundated with floodwaters, riddled with mold and a crumbling roof, the structure’s future was uncertain.

But there was more than just the museum’s structural challenges that had befallen Sandy Ground, which is the oldest free Black settlement in the nation still inhabited by decedents of its pioneers. In fact, this community — founded by Moses K. and Silas K. Harris in 1828 — was no stranger to hardship.

The Sandy Ground Historical Society had lost its not-for-profit status, inhibiting the organization from receiving any funding, which was greatly needed to pay a stack of overdue bills and make repairs to the museum, located at 1538 Woodrow Rd. In addition, the historic community was in need of new leadership, and its historians were seeking to pass the torch of preservation to a new generation.

Moody Lewis, the historical society’s president, knew she needed help, and she wasn’t afraid to ask. She knew Sandy Ground was a significant part of not only Staten Island’s history, but New York’s and the United States’ histories as well. That’s when she turned to the Advance/SILive.com, which launched a journalistic initiative on Feb. 9, 2023, to bring awareness to the importance of preserving Sandy Ground.

“In the beginning, it was like, ‘How are we going to do this?’ How is this going to happen?’ Once they [the Advance/SILive.com and community groups] stepped in, it became a work in progress. All the right people were right there in place,” she said.

Read more here.

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