Bed Stuy’s Secret Tents Society Launches Fundraiser to Restore Its Grand But Crumbling HQ


The Bed Stuy chapter of the historic key support modern society operate by Black gals, United Purchase of Tents, has pulled back again the curtain to check with the community for assistance restoring its spectacular but dilapidated headquarters at 87 MacDonough Avenue.

In a GoFundMe that kicked off July 21, United Get of Tents suggests it requirements $200,000 to repair the huge 1863 Italianate and Second Empire mansion it has owned considering the fact that 1945. Executive Board President of the United Get of Tents Japanese District #3 Essie Gregory confirmed to Brownstoner the GoFundMe is in fact currently being run by the group.

Desired repairs include things like setting up radiators during the developing as properly as changing a leaky roof, the building’s electrical wiring, a doorway in the basement, masonry techniques likely into the basement, fire escapes, and the drinking water pipes within and outdoors the setting up. Also needing refurbishment are the inside partitions, h2o weakened ceilings and floors, the front of the building and all the windows.

The mansion, which sits in the Stuyvesant Heights Historic District and is outlined on the New York Point out and Countrywide Sign-up of Historic Places — and was identified as a jewel of Mattress Stuy by Brownstoner columnist Suzanne Spellman — has appear below menace and fallen into disrepair owing to “bad contractors, financial hardship and opportunistic residence builders,” in accordance to the fundraiser.

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The residence in December 2020. Photo by Susan De Vries

The United Order of Tents needs to restore the historic structure and manage ownership of the creating to “continue to be a beacon of hope in the Mattress Stuy local community,” the fundraiser reads. “We are embarking on a campaign to increase our membership and safeguard our legacy for many years. For more than a century, secrecy has served as our bond and defense, but it has also prevented the community from being aware of about our fantastic do the job.”

So far, the work has lifted $2,010.

Gregory informed Brownstoner the business hopes the group will aid its initiatives to raise the funds, and it is extremely grateful for what has been donated so significantly. “To just about every of the people that have donated, I have heartfelt many thanks for them for making it possible for us to preserve our constructing,” she mentioned.

The mansion at 87 MacDonough Road, close to the corner of Tompkins Avenue, was constructed for William A. Parker in 1863, who became rich marketing hops and malt to brewers at a time when the marketplace was booming in Brooklyn. The next operator of the property was James McMahon, the son of Irish immigrants who made his fortune on the railroad strains concerning Boston and Baltimore, and later turned a banker. McMahon died in 1913, but it wasn’t right until 1945 that the United Get of Tents took possession of the mansion.

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The carriage residence and the rear of 87 MacDonough in 1929. Photo via New York General public Library

The Tents, a women’s fraternal business, has a “long, proud history in the African American group,” as Spellman mentioned in a three-section background on the team and mansion. It was began in 1848 by two previously enslaved females, Annetta M. Lane and Harriet R. Taylor, as aspect of the Underground Railroad to enable escaping slaves flee to the North and Canada. It was formally structured next the Civil War and is now one particular of the oldest girl-only Christian organizations in the United States.

Since its inception, the United Order of Tents has supplied medical care in the Black community, provided burial insurance, and lifted revenue for hospitals, orphanages and senior residences.

Above the previous 77 a long time, the United Order of Tents has continued that work from its Brooklyn headquarters, the fundraiser says, but in the past several yrs the making has fallen into disrepair. With dues dropping due to members passing absent, the culture has struggled to uncover revenue to pay for the property’s maintenance, the fundraiser reads.

“Several years ago, the Tents sold a large component of their land in Bed-Stuy to restore the historic villa to its former glory. A contractor was compensated to do the perform, but unfortunately, the females of the Tents say employees did sizeable damage to the constructing,” the fundraiser carries on.


The household today. Image by Anna Bradley-Smith

The plot was offered in 2012 to developer H Keeping Team for $720,000, who manufactured The Brownstone Flats on it. The section when held a carriage residence experiencing Macon Street, which was at some issue demolished.

Irrespective of the problems to the household and its point out of disrepair, the ladies are however performing from the developing – and are continuously getting qualified by developers hunting to get the web page, the fundraiser adds.

The group and its Brooklyn assets motivated a 2019 conference at Brooklyn Faculty. The organization’s framework and heritage had been documented in a 2019 posting by Tents member Essie Gregory and Brooklyn College Assistant Professor of City Archaeology Kelly Britt. The setting up has also been an Historic Districts Council’s Six to Celebrate choose.

The organization’s web site suggests the compact team of Black girls who arrive jointly to act on social issues are now revealing their record and existence in the hope of getting greater community aid. United Buy of Tents Japanese District #3 is also registering as a nonprofit group so that it can use donations to assistance far more persons.

“The team even now sticks to Christian values, and is welcoming to all Black girls,” the web-site suggests.

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