Collective Memory

Why is historic preservation so important?  History is the collective memory of a community-a source that connects people and creates a line of continuity through the past.  Historic buildings serve as vessels to remind us of some magnificent communities that have come before us-a reminder that should be welcomed in these divisive times. 


The Hunterfly Houses at the Weeksville Heritage Center are perfect example of this. Weeksville in Crown Heights marks one of the largest free black communities in antebellum America.  Weeksville was a self sustaining community that provided its residents education, political standing, and the opportunity to own land and operate businesses. A community rooted in elevating their neighbor and fighting for social justice resulted in some of the most successful minds of the time.  By the early 20th century Weeksville became less secluded and was subsumed into the rest of Brooklyn. I wasn’t until the 1970’s that the Hunterfly houses-the remaining remnants of Weeksville (and the oldest structures in Crown Heights) were landmarked and efforts were put in place to restore them.  Preserving these houses serves as documentation of the past, and preservation of a memory of a community that should not be forgotten.

Historic photo pulled from Brooklyn Historical Society archives.

Historic photo pulled from Brooklyn Historical Society archives.

by Haleh Short