News Press Release

NAACP Calls for Better Plan to Protect Pennsylvania Underground Railroad Site

September 12, 2018

Baltimore, MD —The NAACP National Office has joined with several Pennsylvania branches and the Friends of Abolition Hall to call for the rejection of current proposal before the Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors for redevelopment of a former Underground Railroad site, just outside of Philadelphia.

On Thursday, September 13ththe Board of Supervisors will hear closing arguments from the developer and the objectors, including the NAACP and members of Friends of Abolition Hall.

The NAACP, Friends of Abolition Hall and other advocates are calling for a new plan that would protect the site and create a Welcome Park where individuals could learn about the former site where countless enslaved Africans on the escape from chattel slavery found refuge as they trekked north.

The Corson Homestead in Plymouth Meeting was turned into a major stop on the Underground Railroad by the Maulsby family. Their daughter, Martha, married George Corson, and together, Martha and George continued to maintain the homestead as a sanctuary. In 1856, the Corson family added a second story to their carriage shed, creating a meeting place for abolitionists. Abolition Hall could seat 200 people, and it was here that individuals ranging from Frederick Douglass to Harriett Beecher Stowe rallied anti-slavery activists.

The advocates are asking for a new plan that incorporates key changes for the proposed development and subdivision of the Corson Homestead at Butler and Germantown Pikes, in the historic Village of Plymouth Meeting, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, including:

  • The developer, K. Hovnanian Builders, should undertake a conditions assessment of the three historic buildings–Hovenden House, Abolition Hall, Stone Barn–and assemble a responsible marketing plan that ensures their appropriate reuse and future occupancy.
  • Whitemarsh Township should commit to acquiring a conservation easement, or outright title, to approximately two acres of land immediately adjacent (to the north/northeast) to the historic structures in order to protect and forever preserve this land, and thereafter create a public Welcome Park with interpretive signage that teaches the unique history of the homestead.

“The Corson Homestead was a busy stop on the Underground Railroad, and later, the home and studio of artist Thomas Hovenden (The Last Moments of John Brown),” said Sydelle Zove an organizer with The Friends of Abolition Hall. “This National Historic Register-listed property, while privately owned and under agreement of sale, deserves a development plan that respects and embraces its unique contribution to our nation’s history. “

Johnny Corson, an African-American distant relative of the Corson family and President of the NAACP Pottstown Branch Agrees.  “This history is America’s history,” said Corson. “And it’s a history worth preserving for generations to come.”  Visit this Wiki for more information.

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Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas here.

President Johnson will be available for interviews prior to and after his the panels and workshop appearances. Please contact Sunshine, Sachs & Associates at NAACP@sunshinesachs.com and Malik Russell at mrussell@naacpnet.org to arrange and request interviews.

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Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas here.

Media Contact:

Malik Russell
Director of Communications
NAACP
mrussell@naacpnet.org