Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Various bits of VERY good news!

We are happy to report that on December 16,2008 the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission calandered the proposed Lamartine Place Historic District for a full hearing, for JANUARY 13!!! We encourage all supporters to turn out for the hearing!

Also, whereas in October we were very worried that work on the penthouse addition to the Hopper-Gibbons house had recommenced, we were able to get a new stop work order due to the help of Assemlymember Richard Gotfried's office.

Furthermore the current owner of the building will not be allowed to build the penthouse addition as he had intended. We received astonishing news re: the Hopper-Gibbons home at no. 339 West 29th (formerly an Underground Railroad Station) from the audit of this site conducted by the Department of Buildings on 10/21. The current owner of the building will not be allowed to build the penthouse addition as he had intended, which would have disrupted the uniform line of the cornices of the row houses on the west half of this block.

According to the DOB, the following objections to this proposed construction were raised in this failed audit: "The proposed penthouse, for an existing building less than 45 feet wide in an R8B zoning district is contrary to Section 23-692 of the Zoning Resolution, and therefore not permitted."!!!

We are elated at this news!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Current owner of the building will not be allowed to build the penthouse addition as he had intended.

We have just received astonishing news re: the Hopper-Gibbons home at no. 339 West 29th (formerly an Underground Railroad Station) from the audit of this site conducted by the Department of Buildings on 10/21. The current owner of the building will not be allowed to build the penthouse addition as he had intended, which would have disrupted the uniform line of the cornices of the row houses on the west half of this block.

According to the DOB, the following objections to this proposed construction were raised in this failed audit: "The proposed penthouse, for an existing building less than 45 feet wide in an R8B zoning district is contrary to Section 23-692 of the Zoning Resolution, and therefore not permitted."!!!

We are elated at this news!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Hopper-Gibbons home at no. 339 West 29th Street (which served as an Underground Railroad Station) has never been more gravely imperiled than now.

Message from Fern Luskin:

The Hopper-Gibbons home at no. 339 West 29th Street (which served as an Underground Railroad Station) has never been more gravely imperiled than now. The day after the Landmarks Preservation Commission and Community Board 4 held a meeting indicating that they were very interested in making 12 buildings on my block part of a historic district, a construction crew resumed work on this home. I just learned that the owner of no. 339 was granted a new building permit on October 9th for exactly the same plan as last year, i.e., to add a 1 1/2 story penthouse to this 4 story rowhouse. According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the issuance of this building permit now prevents them from doing anything to help save the building.

However, as I have repeatedly indicated to the Department of Buildings for many months, the steel girders that are now perched on top of the building were built to an illegal height and endanger the fragile bricks below it (erected from 1846-1847). A DOB inspector, in fact, told Julie Finch and me in July that this should never have been allowed in the first place and that the DOB would issue violations and take the owners to court, but this was never done. Instead, on October 2nd, the DOB rescinded the Stop Work Order on this building that had been in place since last October and issued the new building permit the following week, thus ignoring this obvious violation of the law and my warnings of the safety issues this poses. They failed to even give either myself or Assemblyman Gottfried's office any information about the new plan exam that had been approved on September 19th or to reply to my complaint until AFTER allowing the owner to resume building. This was evidently an attempt on their part to render both myself and the elected officials powerless to intervene. Not only has the owner of no. 339 been engaged in illegal practices, endangering the contiguous buildings and innocent passersby, but now the Department of Buildings seems to have been involved in some kind of cover-up by denying the community the information we needed in order to fight this.

Our last hope is to finally prevail by publicizing the zoning violation and, of course, the historical importance of this building, through newspaper articles (Chelsea Now is doing another piece on this as we speak), a press conference and/or a public demonstration, or legal advice. Best of all would be to find a wealthy donor to buy the building! Our first step should be to call 311, complaining about the illegal height of the steel girders (heightening the building to 62 ft. 10 in. rather than the 60 feet allowed).

We need to deluge the Department of Buildings, Mayor Bloombergs' Office and the Office of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who represents the related district.

The aesthetic unity and small scale of the row houses on 29th Street, fronted by gardens and opposite what is virtually a park, make it a special place within the congested, skyscraper-filled confines of Manhattan, which should not be marred by any alterations. To keep it that way and to reclaim the right to our architectural and historical heritage, we really need to step up to the plate and do something to help ourselves, because the DOB surely isn't.

Fern Luskin

Thursday, August 28, 2008

State Historic Preservation Office says Lamartine Place meets the criteria for Historic District

Great news everyone,

The State Historic Preservation Office has determined that the Lamartine Place Historic District (the 29th St. block) meets the criteria for listing to the State and National Registers I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, have a terrific Labor Day weekend.

This could potentially mean not just the Hopper-Gibbons House but also the row of which it is a part.

This would create a nice precedent, which does not alas bind the NYC Landmarks Commision to do the same but could be a positive influence on their own decision making re:the house and or the block.

We would like to thank Julie Finch for her dedication and help in preparing the application for historic district eligiblity, Kathleen Howe of the State Historic Preservation Office, Fern Luskin for her pioneering research, Laurence Frommer, and our elected officials and Community Board (Manhattan CB 4), who have supported the effort to make Lamartine Place a historic district.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

NYU symposium to commemorate the two-hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the Transatlanctic Slave Trade by the United States of America

To commemorate the two-hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the Transatlanctic Slave Trade by the United States of America, New York University's Institute of African American Affairs and Africana Studies Program is hosting an international symposium entittled Slave Routes: Resistance, Abolition and creative Progress.

This symposium, supported by UNESCO's Slave Routes Project, will be co-sponsored by NYU's Institute for Public Knowledge, the Organization of Woman Writers of Africa, Inc. and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, with additional support provided by the African Diaspora Slave Routes Organizing Committee. The symposium will be held at New York University and other sites in the New York Metropolitan area October 9-11, 2008.

For more information, please visit:

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Although it sounds strange, not all white abolitionists worked with black abolitionists. The Hopper-Gibbons family were a noteable exception. In the cartoon from the time that is above we see Isaac Hopper in Quaker Garb, with noted NYC black abolitionist David Ruggles (David Ruggles--the country's first African American bookseller, founding secretary of New York City's Vigilance Committee, assistant to over 600 fugitive slaves including Frederick Douglass--joined them in 1842.) and to the right is Barney Course who assisted many fugitive slaves escape to freedom.

David Ruggles was known as one of the most "notorious" black abolitionists in the United States. Below is a description of a remarkable incident, which took place right around the time Frederick Douglass arrived in New York City, which reveals the energy and courage demanded of Ruggles as he used his pen and life to fight against slavery. The Darg Case, as it was called, caused a furor in New York’s newspapers in the autumn of 1838. Its proceeding exposed the extreme dangers for Ruggles and other anti-slavery warriors.

We look forward to the upcoming biography of David Ruggles by Colgate Professor, Graham Russell Hodges, the working title of which is A Whole-Souled Man: David Ruggles and the Rise of Radical Black Abolitionism.

from Graham Russell Hodges, Hazards of Anti-Slavery Journalism, 2000

IMAGE OF COMMEMORATIVE PLAQUE AT 36 LISPENARD ST., MANHATTAN, where David Ruggles sheltered Frederick Douglas when he first arrived in NYC.

New York City residents in the 1830s were deeply divided over the future of America’s peculiar institution. It was naturally abhorred by the city’s 16,000 black residents, many of whom had been only recently emancipated by legislative decree ending slavery in New York state in 1827. Much of the city’s elite also worked against it, though by different means. Some elite urbanites favored the strategy of the American Colonization Society, with its plan of sending free blacks back to Africa. Others, notably the Jay family, preferred black self-help efforts at home and donated money to the New York Manumission Society and its principal agency, the African Free School. Though the school had declined recently, it was the alma mater of the city’s black elite. A more radical wing of the Manumission Society sided with immediatists—anti-slavery activists such as William Lloyd Garrison and the Tappan brothers, founders of Dun and Bradstreet—who wanted slavery ended now, not later.

One of the most active Manumission Society members with this view was Barney Corse, who, for more than 10 years, had helped self-emancipated or fugitive slaves come north and helped local blacks protect their freedom against kidnappers. Joining him was the venerable Isaac T. Hopper, a Quaker abolitionist since the 1780s, and Ruggles. This trio had successfully battled city officials and kidnappers on several occasions. At other times, when they lost, Ruggles used his press to blast this unfair system. Some situations were uncomplicated; others, such as the Darg Case, were complex. The facts, as they came out in the subsequent trial, were as follows: On August 25, 1838, John P. Darg, a Virginia slaveholder, arrived in New York City with his slave Thomas Hughes. The issue of Southerners bringing their human chattel to a free state was under intense negotiation between the governors of New York and Virginia, but Darg apparently felt confident about the status of his servant. But a few days later Hughes came to Hopper’s house, seeking refuge. The Quaker, however, was initially reluctant and asked Hughes to leave his home. The next day, the New York Sun, the most vitriolic of the penny press, published a notice offering a reward for the return of Hughes and the $7,000 or $8,000 he had taken with him. Hopper, Corse and perhaps Ruggles served as go-betweens for Darg and Hughes. The slave no longer had all the money, having given some of it to others who helped him escape and a portion to some local gamblers.

Corse and Ruggles decided that returning the cash was moral but turning over Hughes was not. They convinced Darg to free Hughes provided that he gave back as much money as he took. When the sum turned out to be far less than Darg demanded, the slave master ordered Corse and Ruggles arrested for grand larceny. Corse quickly found bail, but Ruggles was jailed for two days with common criminals, even though he had not actually been charged with anything. After that incident, a caricature of the three, entitled The Disappointed Abolitionists, was published, suggesting that they were really interested in the reward and, rather than trying to free slaves, were setting up an extortion ring to prey on unwary masters.

The case remained newsworthy over the next few months. In October, a group of black citizens honored Ruggles by giving him a cane with a golden knob. Sadly, the struggle was taking its toll on the valiant Ruggles. Now only 28 years old, he was nearly blind and was afflicted with severe bowel disorders. All of his money and time went into the movement, so he often was homeless. Worse afflictions were on the way, and they came from a surprising source.

In 1837, Samuel Eli Cornish, aided by Philip A. Bell, resurrected his black newspaper and renamed it the Colored American. Ruggles quickly became a regular contributor. The editors in turn frequently wrote approvingly of his actions. But in early 1839, a terrible dispute arose that ended Ruggles’ career in New York City. Hearing rumors that a black hotelier named John Russell was hiding captive blacks before they were transported south, Ruggles, without Cornish’s knowledge, inserted an article in the Colored American accusing the innkeeper of helping kidnappers. Russell sued the newspaper, Ruggles and Cornish for libel and won a judgment of $600—which nearly bankrupted the weekly journal. Furious, Cornish attacked Ruggles in print. Although wealthy benefactors soon paid the libel award, Cornish campaigned to have Ruggles driven out of the movement. One method was to demand that Ruggles explain every cash expenditure of the Committee of Vigilance. After a careful accounting, it appeared that the committee’s funds were short $400. Broken in health and deeply hurt by Cornish’s accusations, Ruggles was forced to resign his post as secretary of the committee. Before doing so, he published his last imprint in New York City, A Plea for a Man and a Brother, in which he tried to refute Cornish’s indictments. In truth, the more conservative Cornish and his many allies had tired of Ruggles’ radical methods and sought less confrontational means to fight slavery.

from Graham Russell Hodges, Hazards of Anti-Slavery Journalism, 2000

We look forward to the upcoming biography of David Ruggles by Colgate Professor, Graham Russell Hodges, the working title of which is A Whole-Souled Man: David Ruggles and the Rise of Radical Black Abolitionism.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

339 West 29th Street in gravely imperiled condition !

There is no more serious case of a gravely imperiled, historically important building in NYC, than the former Hopper-Gibbons home at 339 West 29th St., which is the only documented Underground Railroad Station in Manhattan. We continue to urge all historic preservation agencies and organizations to add this site to their lists of endangered historic buildings.

The building currently has no roof, which is a fire hazard as has been reported to the inspector of the Fire Department (with no result)and has already caused water damage and provided a place for pidgeons to nest! In addition, the scaffolding and/or tarp, besides being an eyesore, is disintegrating and can endanger passersby. Because the owner started to construct one and a half stories without adhering to building and zoning codes and, as a reult, had their building permit revoked, the steel I-beams they erected (as well as the hazardous scaffolding), must be torn down and the original roof of the fifth floor which they destroyed, needs to be reconstructed ASAP.

Monday, February 25, 2008

339 West 29th St/Hopper-Gibbons House is featured in NY Times article about the challenge of preserving homes tied to the Undergound Railroad !

This past Sunday (Feb 24) the NY Times published an article on the challenges of preserving homes tied to the Underground Railroad, featuring 339 West 29th Street, i.e. the Hopper-Gibbons House. Below is a quote from the article. For the full article please go to:

February 24, 2008

Retracing the Elusive Footsteps of a Secretive History

ONE balmy day last April, an art and architecture historian named Fern Luskin hauled her laptop and a collapsible chair up to the roof of the Chelsea town house where she lives to work outside for a while. From the top of her building, on West 29th Street near Eighth Avenue, the view to the south is dominated by the bulky towers of the Penn South apartment complex. To the northeast, the Empire State Building pierces the sky.

But on this particular day, neither the panorama nor her laptop could distract Ms. Luskin from the scene unfolding three doors over, where workmen were attaching long steel beams and poles to a neighboring rooftop. It was the beginning of what she correctly assumed was the construction of a vertical addition to the nearby building — in other words, a penthouse.

Ms. Luskin, a professor of art history at La Guardia Community College, was distressed. Her trained eye relished the uniformity of the row of five town houses that included both her building and the one at No. 339 being readied for construction. The addition, she feared, would be what she described as an “aesthetic disturbance.”

After learning that the town houses were built in 1847, more than 50 years earlier than she had thought, Ms. Luskin decided to delve into the past of No. 339. For two months, she combed through historical archives and databases, and she discovered that No. 339 was apparently Manhattan’s first documented safe house for escaped slaves — a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Uncovering the story became something of an obsession as Ms. Luskin pieced together clues about the lives of Abigail Hopper Gibbons and James Sloan Gibbons, well-known Quaker abolitionists who lived in the building in its early years.

“It got so exciting,” Ms. Luskin said, “I couldn’t stop.”
After finding a period map that linked the Gibbonses to the house, Ms. Luskin discovered a passage in a letter published in a biography of a renowned 19th-century lawyer named Joseph Hodges Choate describing a meal he ate at the house with a young escaped slave who was fleeing to Canada.

Though buildings throughout the city are often thought to have been part of the escape route north, finding documents that provide proof is extremely difficult. “It’s incredibly rare that you can substantiate it,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. “Locations were secretive by their very nature.”

Despite the documentation Ms. Luskin collected, No. 339 could not originally be considered for designation as a landmark because a building permit had been issued for the construction project. However, construction is at a standstill; according to Kate Lindquist, a spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings, the permit for construction of the penthouse is being revoked, in part because an agency review determined that the architectural plans did not comply with building and zoning codes.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is currently evaluating No. 339 to see if it is eligible for designation as a landmark, news that will no doubt delight some local residents.

“Being one of the few African-Americans on the block, I have an emotional connection to this history,” said Curtis Jewell, a 55-year-old truck driver for the Postal Service who has lived in Ms. Luskin’s building for 10 years. “You have a lot of cultural history in New York that money seems to want to push out of the way.”

Saturday, January 5, 2008



In Autumn of 2007, serious concern arose about the construction of two or more additional stories and alterations to 339 W. 29th Street. As Fern Luskin wrote to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in June 2007,
"This will result in the disfigurement of an important
landmark building of great historical significance. Because of its historical importance, this addition must be stopped. This house, built in 1847, (not in 1900 (as erroneously indicated on Zoning map # 08D, Block 753, Lot 16), was the site of an "Underground Railroad" Station in New York for runaway slaves fleeing to Canada. The Civil War Sites Study Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-628, 16 U.S.C. 1a-5 note; 104 Stat. 4495) and the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-203) recognize the need for preserving buildings formerly used as Underground Railroad Stations. The house was once owned by the noted Quaker abolitionists and members of the Anti-Slavery Society, James Sloan Gibbons, and his wife, Abigail Hopper Gibbons.

Other important opponents of slavery who stayed in or visited their residence on 29th Street include Abby’s father, Isaac Tatem Hopper,a
renowned Underground Railroad activist (died in 1852, due to terminal illness); Horace Greeley, who often lodged there,and John Brown (who, while spending the evening there in 1859, confided in Abby his plans for the raid on Harper’s Ferry and the freeing of the slaves that he hoped would result from it). In his quest to end slavery, James Gibbons was one of the first to respond to President Lincoln’s call for 300,000 more troops and his poem, “We Are Coming Father Abra’am,” was the impetus for the phenomenonally popular Civil War song of that name, composed by Stephen Foster."

As Fern Luskin later discovered and wrote to both the Landmarks Preservation Commission and Community Board 4: "There exists an extremely important document indicating, irrefutably, that Abigail Hopper Gibbons and her husband, James Sloan Gibbons, provided refuge for runaway slaves. It was written by their close friend, the renowned lawyer Joseph M. Choate. Choate, who used to visit
the Gibbons home after coming to New York in 1855, states "the house of Mrs. Gibbons was a great resort of abolitionists and extreme antislavery people from all parts of the land, as it was one of the stations of the underground railroad by which fugitive slaves found their way from the
South to Canada. I have dined with that family in company with William Lloyd Garrison, and sitting at the table with us was a jet-black negro who was on his way to freedom...Lucretia Mott the celebrated female preacher of that day was also a frequent guest."

[from Dorothy G. Becker, Abigail Hopper Gibbons (New York, 1989), pp. 6-7, citing Edward Sandford Martin, The Life of Joseph Hodges Choate: As Gathered Chiefly from his Letters (New York, 1920), 2 Vols. Vol.I, pp. 96,99."

As Underground Railroad Stations are supposed to be preserved by law, 339 West 29th St. (the Hopper-Gibbons' home) must be given landmark status. Similarly, as there are not a great many examples of 1840's architecture left in Manhattan, the Landmarks Preservation Commission should give this rare surviving example theroef, the landmark status it deserves, thus preserving the architectural integrity of this building.

Because of the Gibbons’ opposition to slavery and their close friendship with Horace Greeley, a mob specifically targeted their house for destruction during the Draft Riots of 1863. James Gibbons, his daughters, and the famous lawyer, Joseph Hodges Choate, escaped the mob only by walking over the roofs of the neighboring houses (which were of virtually uniform height) and were saved by a Mr. Herrman who let them into the Hebrew Orphan Asylum at the end of the block. The looting and partial torching of the Gibbons’ residence was described in the correspondence of Mr. Gibbons, himself, as well as that of his daughters, their friends (including Choate and the renowned botanist John Torrey), and in court records.

The Gibbonses’ residence, like the other row houses on West 29th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues), was built by the Rev. Dr. Cyrus Mason, evidently in partnership with the entrepreneur, William Torrey, John Torrey’s brother. The block was called Lamartine-Place from the time it was built until 1898 and was, as Christopher Gray suggests in his “Streetscapes” column in the New York Times (1998), probably named after Alphonse de Lamartine, the French poet and politician. The Gibbons family resided at No. 19 Lamartine-Place.

This lovely tree-lined avenue of row houses fronted by gardens, was also the site of other noteworthy occupants besides James and Abigail Gibbons. The Hebrew Orphan Asylum, the first Jewish orphanage in New York City, was located at No. 1 Lamartine-Place (now 303 West 29th St.), from 1860-63. The Petitpas Boarding House and restaurant, once at no. 8 Lamartine-Place (now 317 West 29th St), was a bohemian magnet, due to the presence of the artist John Butler Yeats (William’s father). John Sloan (who, along with other Ashcan School artists, used to congregate there), painted Yeats at this locale in his 1910 picture, Yeats at Petitpas’.

Other illustrious lodgers at this establishment included Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose nephew was married to one of the Gibbonses’ daughters and who, like that family was opposed to slavery. The popular soprano, Emma Gillingham Bostwick, who performed in the 1850s, may also have resided on this block, as the name, “Mrs. Bostwick” was written beneath the address, “2 Lamartine-place, West Twenty-ninth-Street,” on a piece of paper found in 1862 that had been salvaged from a shipwreck.

Finally, Lamartine Hall, on the northwest corner of West 29th St. and 8th Avenue, was the endpoint of the Orangemen’s parade and the Hibernians’ riot, in 1871. The planned addition of upper stories to 339 West 29th Street will mar the current roof line and cornice shared by all of the historic town houses on this portion of the block and will forever obscure the Gibbons’ escape route over these roofs during the Draft Riots.

Already, the steel girders for the additional stories are in place, a third floor has been laid down at the rear of the house (which was formerly only two stories high,), and the antique cornice (and bricks) on the fa├žade have been removed, to be replaced by a vulgar, modern imitation.

It is important that we preserve, and not destroy, the architectural and historic legacy of Chelsea, in general, and of West 29th Street, in particular. Toward this end, we must protect this important building by conferring on it the landmark status that it deserves, specifically that of Underground Railroad Station."Map shows routes of the "Underground Railroad".



Abigail Hopper Gibbons (7 December 180116 January 1893) was an abolitionist, activist, and a nurse during the American Civil War.

Gibbons grew up in a Quaker family, and her father spent much of his time and money aiding runaway slaves.

Abigail was to share her father's beliefs and spent much of her life working for social reform. Over the course of her life, Gibbons pushed for prison reform, welfare, civil rights, and care for soldiers returning from the Civil War. In an odd twist of events, Gibbon's father,Isaac Hopper,

and her husband, James Gibbons, were disowned by their New York City Quaker Meeting, because they were directly confrontational, including in print, with specific members of the congregation, whose business activities were profiting from slave labor in the southern states.

Abigail Gibbons then protested with her feet and left the society although she had been a leading member in it, and never returned. However the family still maintained the silent, mystical Quaker form of worship in their home.

Although a controversial figure, she was highly successful in her many efforts.

Isaac T. Hopper, father and mentor of Abigail Hopper Gibbons.

Abigail Hopper Gibbons was born in Philadelphia in 1801, the third of ten children. Abigail taught school for several years in Philadelphia and New York. In 1833, she married fellow Quaker, James Sloan Gibbons, who was also an ardent abolitionist. In 1836, Abigail and James moved to New York City, where they had six children. Two of their sons died in infancy, and a third died suddenly after an accident in which he was involved while attending Harvard University.


"Abby"and her father founded the Women's Prison Association of New York City in 1845. She lobbied for improvements in the city's prisons, advocated the hiring of police matrons, and urged the establishment of separate prisons for women. She frequently visited the various prisons in and about New York. For twelve years, she was also president of a German industrial school for street children.In 1853, the Women's Prison Association separated from its parent, the Prison Association, and Abby obtained a New York State charter for her group. Under her leadership, the WPA undertook an aggressive program of legislative lobbying. She protested jail overcrowding and demanded that women prisoners be searched only by female matrons.At that time, most of the WPA’s clients were Irish immigrants struggling with alcohol dependency, made worse by the extreme poverty in which they lived. Abby and her staff worked tirelessly to provide these women with a place to stay, a supportive community, and practical skills training. They created programs for these women, who had previously only known poverty and trouble in their lives.

With the coming of the war, Abby knew that nurses would be needed to care for the wounded. She was immediately ready to give her all for the Union.The United States Sanitary Commission was established in 1861.The purpose of the commission was to recruit nurses and to provide adequate medical care to the Union soldiers-wounded. When the Commission set up a training base at David’s Island Hospital in New York, Abby was among the trainees.She traveled to Washington D.C., to help at the Washington Office Hospital, helping the wounded and distributing supplies. She also helped to establish two field hospitals in Virginia.At Point Lookout, Maryland, the government took over a hotel and 100 guest cottages and converted them into a hospital complex with accommodations for 1500 soldiers. It was named Hammond General Hospital. Abigail vied with Dorothea Dix, the Union Superintendent of Nurses, for control of the hospital, and Abby was finally appointed its head matron. She left the hospital in 1863, when it was converted into Point Lookout Confederate Prison.

After the Battle of Gettysburg, Abby and daughter Sarah were at the front lines nursing wounded Union soldiers and helping escaped slaves to survive and avoid recapture.
Upon comencement of the first-ever military draft, Draft Riots engulfed New York City. At the Gibbons home at 19 Lamartine Place (now 339 W. 29th St.) were Abby’s husband, James Sloan Gibbons, and their two younger daughters, Julia and Lucy. The Gibbons home became one of the many targets of the angry mob.
Below are a few glimpses of what happened to their home on July 14,1863 from a letter (dated July 17) from daughter Lucy to her Aunt Anna:

"As for Bridget, the [Irish servant] girl, it was impossible to alarm her. Her sole consideration was getting through with the washing.... .... In fact, at about 5 o’clock,...I proposed taking a bath [after she and Julia had moved some clothing, personal papers, and portraits to their aunt and uncle’s home next door]. Fifteen minutes later, the mob appeared. .... Our neighbors behaved nobly. Judge Robinson entered with the mob and saved what he could--a portrait of Willie [their brother, who had died in a freak accident while a student at Harvard, a few years earlier], a drawer full of letters,...Mr. Horn stood in the parlor and threatened the mob with a pistol. He drove off the women (!!!) who were trying to set fire to the house with torches, but was finally obliged to retreat through the back window. Mr. Grey rescued a sheet full of wet clothes which were being carried off; and his wife had them re-washed and ironed. A lilttle boy from somewhere, only about twelve years old, helped like a little soldier, bringing buckets of water to put out the fire. .... Our butcher [probably an Irishman] went into the midst of the mob, and declared he would not have that house touched, for which he was badly beaten, but will recover. Father was at the Fifth Avenue Hotel making a last appeal for military to protect the premises..... Mr. [Joseph] Choate...[accompanied us] over the roofs to the end of the block, (by this time the mob was violent) out of a house there [owned by a Jewish man], procured a carriage which waited in 8th Ave., put us all into it, and brought us [to his family’s home on W. 21st St.].

The above item is Excerpted from “The Life of Abby Hopper Gibbons as Told Chiefly Through Her Correspondence,” By Sarah Gibbons Emerson (1896)


Following the war, Abby was involved in several New York charities, including the "Labor and Aid Society," which helped returning veterans find work.She aided in founding the Isaac Hopper Home, named for her father, which helped former women prisoners to return to society. Today, the Women's Prison Association still provides programs through which women can acquire the life skills necessary to lead a productive life and to make good choices for themselves and their families. It is the nation’s oldest advocacy organization working exclusively with women prisoners. Over the past 160 years, the WPA has adapted to the changing needs of its clients and offered them alternatives to their previous lives of crime.


In January 1893, Abigail Hopper Gibbons died at the age of 92. She was eulogized in her obituary as "one of the most remarkable women of the century." She was not only one of the founders of the WPA, she was also the founder of the New York Diet Kitchen for infants and the sick and the poor, and president of the New York Committee for the Prevention and Regulation of Vice. A friend once said of the Hoppers and Gibbonses "they had a natural love for sinners.


The Gibbons home in Manhattan, still stands at what is now 339 West 29Th Street, and was part of an elegant row of houses built as a piece in 1847,much of which survives,despite an apparant lack of any landmark protection. The row was once known as Lamaratine Place and was likely named for Alphonse De Lamartine, a French romantic poet and patron of Anti Slavery and liberal causes.)The house is alleged to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad, and this would not be suprising given the family devotion to the Anti Slavery cause.

The House is most worthy of individual landmark designation, and the larger context in which the house is situated, a two block oasis of 1847 rowhouses is worthy of preservation as a historic district. Specificaly, this refers to the north side of West 29th street from Eighth to Ninth Avenue (at one time known as "Lamartine Place") and both north and south sides of a similar block of West 30Th Street from Eighth to Ninth Avenue.These two blocks were developed in 1847 by Cyrus Mason,in partnership with William Torrey. Mason and Torrey were involved in the construction of Clement Clarke Moore's 1845 row house development, London Terrace, on the site of the present apartment complex of that name, 23d to 24Th Street between Ninth and 10Th Avenue. Both the29th Street block and the 30th street block show Moore's influence, with several row houses still preserving in varied degrees the the front "yard: setback characteristic of Moores' blocks to the south near the Episcopal seminary.

These two miraculously surviving blocks are both a lovely 19Th Century Oasis and a sorely needed respite, wedged as they are, between Penn Souths huge "tower in park" complex and the "super-blocks" of the Farley Post Office and Madison Square Garden/PennStation.(not mention many mega projects to come!) This alone is worth preserving as large scale development pressures are encroaching from all sides these days. Perhaps it is not too late for the Chelsea community to create of these two blocks, a mini Historic District..this would be ideal (no doubt replete with "non contributing buildings" and the rowhouses in various states of alteration or not). ...Barring this, at least these historic "Lamartine Blocks" need a firm lowering of the attendant FAR from R8b to R6b which is more akin to certain West Village townhouse sidestreets.