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Historic New Paltz house to become Black History Research and Cultural Center

Sep 12, 2022 12:45 am

Brian Hubert is reporting for the Daily Freeman plans are underway to restore the historic Ann Oliver House to become the Dr. Margaret Wade-Lewis Black History Research and Cultural Center in New Paltz. The structure was built by the 19th-century New Paltz black carpenter Jacob Wynkoop. Esi Lewis, an attorney and a New Paltz Town Board member, serves as the steward of the historic 1885 house at 5 Broadhead Avenue. Lewis estimates it would take $500,000 to restore the building to serve as a cultural center housing museum exhibits on black history in the Hudson Valley while also offering mental health services. “I want to see it happen so people can see black history as American history as opposed to separate,” Lewis said. “This is [the] history of the Hudson Valley.” A New Paltz native, Lewis is the daughter of the late Dr. Margaret Wade-Lewis, who helped to found the Black Studies Department at SUNY New Paltz. Lewis said that, over the years, the house fell on rough times and was nearly demolished. The house has not been lived in for a while, except for squatters, and property maintenance has not been done, but Lewis has already started to make improvements to the property, she said. The builder of the house, Jacob Wynkoop, was born free in 1829 to Thomas and Jane Deyo Wynkoop, two formerly enslaved people. Wynkoop would go on o serve in the U.S. Civil War alongside Ann Oliver’s husband, Richard Oliver. Both men survived the war, but Oliver would die on his way home after contracting malaria, leaving Ann widowed. By 1885, Wynkoop, was a well-established carpenter and built the house for Oliver. Wynkoop lived into his 80s and is buried in the Ulster County Veterans Cemetery. Just over half a dozen homes built by Wynkoop survive today. “There are seven houses created for black people that survived and the fact that this one is going to be owned and operated by black people is significant,” Lewis said. Read the full story in the Daily Freeman.

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