We stand in solidarity for equality and inclusion, hope and justice, and against oppression, institutional racism, and systemic violence against African Americans and people of color. In order to learn, grow, and strive to be a more equitable and caring society, we must honor the voices of those who are marginalized by these obstacles, and we must continue to listen.
Buildings Speak, We Listen
." This phrase underlies much of our programming and last year it led us to explore under-representation in the stories, people, places, and buildings all across the Adirondack region - a region that
long been home to a range of diverse, defining stories of Black excellence and entrepreneurship, Native American resilience and continuity, and a place where women fought for voting rights and equality.
From the Waddington Town Hall - built by
, a skilled Black stone mason who escaped enslavement in Kentucky, served in Union Army, became a master builder in Northern New York - to the New Russia Post Office, a space carrying the story of Lafayette Mason, another Union Army veteran, farmer, and Black entrepreneur living and working alongside his Adirondack neighbors and with his wife Mary Wheeler of Willsboro (see more in Sally Svenson's
Blacks in the Adirondacks: A History
). At "
" in Essex and Franklin counties, we learn how the African American experience in the Adirondacks directly intersected with the disenfranchisement of Black Americans, who were required to own at least $250 worth of real property to vote during the mid-19
century. Or there's the
"Closet" of aspiring opera singer Fulton Fryer
Seagle Music Colony
, which embodies the history of mid-20
century segregation, and at the same time, reaffirms the importance of preserving historic buildings, especially those that have difficult stories to tell. Even our widely known Great Camps, born of late 19
century opulence and privilege, house the stories of Black families who worked there as staff or came as visitors. All of these places have vital stories to tell.
Fulton Fryer's "Closet," a building formerly on the grounds of the Seagle Music Colony and now preserved at the Adirondack Experience in Blue Mountain Lake.
Buildings have an uncanny ability to highlight the multiplicity of experiences across our region and to illuminate the clear connection between past and present by reminding us that historic places witness and encapsulate time, events, lives, labors, and both justices and injustices. Through the language and stories of buildings, if we are truly open, we can hear and learn so much about these difficult and uncomfortable legacies.
We learn, too, that even in the face of these institutional obstacles, there have also been stories of perseverance and justice. We are dedicated to listening and learning to be better stewards of not only our historic buildings, but of the justice and equality that life and liberty promise.
If you would like to support the work of national cultural organizations in our field that explore, document, advocate for, and share Black History, see the links below.
Additionally, the following resources and reading lists offer material for all ages to understand racism.