Mattress Stuy’s Secret Tents Society Launches Fundraiser to Restore Its Grand However Crumbling HQ

The Mattress Stuy chapter of the historic secret assist society run by Black girls, United Order of Tents, has pulled again the curtain to ask the neighborhood for assist restoring its magnificent however dilapidated headquarters at 87 MacDonough Road.

In a GoFundMe that kicked off July 21, United Order of Tents says it wants $200,000 to restore the big 1863 Italianate and Second Empire mansion it has owned since 1945. Govt Board President of the United Order of Tents Jap District #3 Essie Gregory confirmed to Brownstoner the GoFundMe is certainly being run by the group.

Wanted repairs embrace putting in radiators all through the constructing in addition to Changing a leaky roof, the constructing’s electrical wiring, a door within the basement, masonry steps going into the basement, fireplace escapes, and the water pipes inside and out of doors the constructing. Additionally needing refurbishment are the inside partitions, water broken ceilings and flooring, the entrance of the constructing and all of the home windows.

The mansion, which sits within the Stuyvesant Heights Historic District and is listed on the New York State and Nationwide Register of Historic Locations — and was known as a jewel of Mattress Stuy by Brownstoner columnist Suzanne Spellman — has come underneath risk and fallen into disrepair attributable to “unhealthy contractors, monetary hardship and opportunistic property builders,” based on the fundraiser.

87 macdonough street

The home in December 2020. Photograph by Susan De Vries

The United Order of Tents needs to revive the historic construction and preserve possession of the constructing to “proceed to be a beacon of hope within the Mattress Stuy neighborhood,” the fundraiser reads. “We’re embarking on a marketing campaign to develop our membership and defend our legacy for many years. For greater than a century, secrecy has served as our bond and safety, nevertheless it has additionally prevented the general public from realizing about our nice work.”

To this point, the hassle has been raised $2,010.

Gregory informed Brownstoner the group hopes the neighborhood will assist its efforts to boost the funds, and this can be very grateful for what has been donated to this point. “To every of the those that have donated, I’ve heartfelt thanks for them for permitting us to take care of our constructing,” she stated.

The mansion at 87 MacDonough Road, close to the nook of Tompkins Avenue, was constructed for William A. Parker in 1863, who grew to become rich promoting hops and malt to brewers at a time when the trade was booming in Brooklyn. The second proprietor of the home was James McMahon, the son of Irish immigrants who made his fortune on the railroad traces between Boston and Baltimore, and later grew to become a banker. McMahon died in 1913, nevertheless it wasn’t till 1945 that the United Order of Tents took possession of the mansion.

brooklyn architecture 87 maconough street

The carriage home and the rear of 87 MacDonough in 1929. Photograph through New York Public Library

The Tents, a girls’s fraternal group, has a “lengthy, proud historical past within the African American neighborhood,” as Spellman famous in a three-part historical past on the group and mansion. It was began in 1848 by two previously enslaved girls, Annetta M. Lane and Harriet R. Taylor, as a part of the Underground Railroad to assist escaping slaves flee to the North and Canada. It was formally organized following the Civil Conflict and is now one of many oldest woman-only Christian organizations in the USA.

Since its inception, the United Order of Tents has supplied medical care within the Black neighborhood, supplied burial insurance coverage, and raised cash for hospitals, orphanages and senior residences.

Over the previous 77 years, the United Order of Tents has continued that work from its Brooklyn headquarters, the fundraiser says, however in the previous few years the constructing has fallen into disrepair. With dues dropping attributable to members passing away, the society has struggled to search out cash to pay for the property’s repairs, the fundraiser reads.

“A number of years in the past, the Tents bought a big a part of their land in Mattress-Stuy to revive the historic villa to its former glory. A contractor was paid to do the work, however sadly, the ladies of the Tents say employees did important harm to the constructing,” the fundraiser continues.


The home at the moment. Photograph by Anna Bradley-Smith

The plot was bought in 2012 to developer H Holding Group for $720,000, who constructed The Brownstone Flats on it. The part as soon as held a carriage home dealing with Macon Road, which was sooner or later demolished.

Regardless of the harm to the home and its state of disrepair, the ladies are nonetheless working from the constructing – and are regularly being focused by builders trying to purchase the positioning, the fundraiser provides.

The group and its Brooklyn property impressed a 2019 convention at Brooklyn School. The group’s construction and historical past have been documented in a 2019 article by Tents member Essie Gregory and Brooklyn School Assistant Professor of City Archeology Kelly Britt. The constructing has additionally been an Historic Districts Council’s Six to Rejoice choose.

The group’s web site says the small group of Black girls who come collectively to behave on social points at the moment are revealing their historical past and existence within the hope of getting elevated neighborhood assist. United Order of Tents Jap District #3 can also be registering as a nonprofit group in order that it could possibly use donations to assist extra folks.

“The group nonetheless sticks to Christian values, and is welcoming to all Black girls,” the web site says.

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