Thursday, November 1, 2007

Abigail Hopper Gibbons house:LamartineBlocksW29W30_NYC

Historic Hopper-Gibbons Home in Manhattan:
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,(eye witness accounts support this) and this would not be suprising given the family devotion to the Anti Slavery cause.
Overview: 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. Eventually, a political shift in the Quaker organization resulted in Gibbon's father, as well as her new husband, James Gibbons, being disowned by the society for their anti-slavery activities. Abigail Gibbons left the organization, which she had been a leading member in, and never returned. Although a controversial figure, she was highly successful in her many efforts.

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 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.
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."

An excellent account of the life and work of Abigail Hopper Gibbons is given in:

Abby Hopper Gibbons: Prison Reformer and Social Activist

By Margaret Hope Bacon

ISBN 079144497X

Published 2000

The Hopper-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(eyewitness accounts support this), and this would not be suprising given the family devotion to the Anti Slavery cause.

This 1840's townhouse was once the home of the prominent nineteenth century family of abolitionists/social reformers:that include Abigail Hopper Gibbons and her husband, James Sloan Gibbons as well as Mrs. Gibbons' father and mentor, Isaac T. Hopper. In Fall of 2007 a serious alarm was raised when a new owner of 339 West 29th Street, commenced remodeling with the intention of adding a penthouse, altering the uniform cornice and threatening the historic integrity of the building. Dilgent research, has shown that there is compelling evidence that the building was not only,home to the legendary Abolitionist family but was also specifically targeted during the Draft Riots of 1863 and can further be established through a contemporary eyewitness accounts as being a station on the Underground Railroad.

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.
After the Battle of Gettysburg, Abby and daughter Sarah at the front lines nursing wounded Union sold iers 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)