100 Years of History
December 16th 2011 · 1 Comment
UTICA PHOENIX NEWS
The 2011 inception year of the Oneida County Black History Archive is quickly coming to a close. The recent successful “Reception for Elders” held in conjunction with Utica College, has been met with much interest and popular acclaim. Most recently, Cassandra Harris-Lockwood, Director of the Archive and CEO of For The Good, Inc. made note that the following 100th anniversary was about to come to an end and also coincides with the establishment of the Oneida County Black History Archive (OCBHA).
UTICA OBSERVER – 1911 “LOOKING FOR HOMES”
Notices of ejectment have been served upon all the tenants on the Kilkenny property at the corner of Elizabeth and Burnet Streets, and running back to Post Avenue, to vacate the first of March.
The tenants of the Kilkenny property are unable to obtain homes in the vicinity of their present places of abode, and will be compelled to move to another section of the city. There are about 60 occupants of the Kilkenny property, negroes who have made their homes in that vicinity for a number of years. The Kilkenny buildings will disappear in about 10 days after the first of March. Work on the new fire station will be commenced as soon afterward as possible.
This first known activity of Utica’s ‘Urban Renewal’ movement happened to be imposed upon the residents of the Post Street section of town. This one square block bordered by Elizabeth Street, Burnett, Bleecker and Charlotte, including Post Street was where the ‘Famous Colored Quarter’ was. Colored Quarter was the kinder version of what that section was often called.
That 2011 marks the one hundred year anniversary that the City of Utica decided to disassemble the ancient neighborhood to build a new firehouse, sparked the thought to use this next year to highlight the peculiarities of the people and the life and times in which they lived.
Some of the region’s oldest families are Black and were long-time residents of the Post Street enclave. Councilman Jerome McKinsey’s wife, Tyra McKinsey, is a member of such a family, descended from Albert Grimes and Lucy Wormworth Grimes, a Mohawk Indian whose ancestral home was the Mohawk Valley.
In 2009 the Grimes Family Reunion was held here in Utica. Mayor David Roefaro signed a proclamation that included the words: Whereas, The Grimes family roots date back to the 1800’s and beyond the Mohawk Valley; Utica, New York and surrounding areas. Sharing heritage with the Mohawk Indian tribe the Grimes family…and Whereas, Mr. Albert Grimes, Great, Great, Great Grandfather was very actively involved in the Underground Rail Road movement, which was active in the successful operation that helped free many slaves.
The proclamation ended with the resolution that the July 3rd-5th weekend in 2009 be declared Grimes Family Weekend.
According to respondents of interviews collected by Prof. Jan DeAmicis in April of 1981, nearly all 400 of the Black people who lived in Utica lived on that one block settlement were a church, that would be Hope Chapel, listed then as the Colored Presbyterian Chapel, a saloon, a pool hall, a hotel, a grocery store, and a small restaurant.
All of the inhabitants of what was also termed “Little Hayti” were forced to move. And when they did they all moved together, like a tribe. They did not scatter. They moved en masse to Broad Street near where Park Avenue once intersected.
It is fitting that in this year of the establishment of the OCBHA on the 100th anniversary of the dismantling of that first Black neighborhood, that the Phoenix continue throughout the coming year with regular postings on the life and times of Utica’s earliest Black residents. Look for more in 2012 issues of the Utica Phoenix.
By Mark Ziobro