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President's Report for 2008

See also: The 2008 Annual Report Program

Estes House-Town of Chesterfield Visitors Interpretive Center

-The Estes House continued on hold throughout 2008 and into 2009 until the second week in June when the Town of Chesterfield closed on the house. We anticipate having the Center up and running next Spring. I was able to contribute in a small way to the process of having banks release their liens on the house. If Town Supervisor Gerry Morrow had not gotten involved in the process, the project would not be going forward.

-I attended a very beneficial Upstate History Alliance Sagamore Institute retreat on exhibits last summer.

-Eight companies submitted proposals to design exhibits for the Interpretive Center. Six companies sent representatives for interviews. A committee composed of Margaret Gibbs, S. Booker, Mitchell Ray and myself selected the proposal of Mike Hanke of Design Division, Inc. Mike will come over on July 9th to meet with us and take another look at the house.

Presentations

-We were awarded a Quad Mini-Grant of $1,000 to bring an expert on Mathieu da Costa to SUNY Plattsburgh. The lecture was successfully presented in February of 2009.

-Our DEC funded Black History event, "And Some Were Women" with Qwen Quezaire Presutti was followed by "The Spirit Says Sing!" in February 2009. These great programs were the work of Vivian Papson. We stand a good chance of being granted funds for 2010, if someone is interested in submitting an application for us. The process must begin next month.

-Museum Day—Mitchell Ray and Booker did a great job in 2008; Vivian Papson and Lee Clark were the stars in 2009.

-Solomon Northup Day was commemorated twice in 2008. At the Visitors Center in Saratoga Springs, his 200th birthday was celebrated with many of his descendants, a second birthday part was held at the Old Fort House Museum in Fort Edward. The second gathering was organized by Marilyn Van Dyke and museum director Paul McCarty. There has been a change of personnel at the Saratoga Springs Visitor's Center. I have made two visits to the Center to find out what the program will be for this year, but the Center has commitments which are overshadowing SN Day. I recommend that we hold a Celebration at the Estes House in 2009.

-The Neal Burdick-Lita Kelly fundraiser to replace the historical marker at the Keese Homestead was a big success last November. The new sign will be dedicated in August.

-The Mid-Hudson Anti-Slavery History Project, UGRR History Project of the Capital Region Inc., Rokeby Museum and NCUGRHA collaborated to seek a Champlain-Hudson-Fulton Quad grant to have Cliff Oliver Mealy portray fugitive slave Moses Roper who escaped through New York in 1834. Due to lack of funds, the application was not granted.

Special Activities

One afternoon several of us helped Frank Perusse clean out the hay mow in the old Stephen Keese Smith barn, which he and his wife Jacqueline, now own. An attempt to persuade the 1772 Foundation to help fund restoration work on the barn was unsuccessful. In order for NCUGRHA to obtain help from the 1771 Foundation, we would need to have a right of way to the barn.

Heritage New York

Historical markers for the New York UGRR Heritage Trail will soon be delivered for the Essex County Courthouse, John Brown Farm, First Presbyterian Church of Plattsburgh, and the Congregational Church in Malone.

National Park Service

-An application for S.K. Smith farm was submitted to the National Park Service's Network to Freedom Program. It was returned because it relied too heavily on one historical source.—Smith's recollections. Additional research led to the discovery of a Vermont-Peru-Toronto UGRR story, but so far no document has been found to link Albany, Troy, Glens Falls and Peru route. I am keeping the application on hold.

-Once the Estes House is open, we can apply to NPS for a facility listing.

-We can also submit applications for other sites and programs.

Publications

-Our website is up and running—thanks to Jackie Madison who did a great job designing it. We hired Beth Barnes to serve as our web master. We were on line just in time to provide vital information for a survey historian Judy Wellman was completing for Heritage New York. We asked Judy to help unify the New York UGRR story after we learned that a map of the state in a brochure for an UGRR exhibit in Rochester omitted Lake Champlain.

-Work progressed on the Sidney Howard Gay Journal. Margaret Schwartz, Mitchell Ray and I worked on transcribing Gay's unpublished journal from the 1850s in which he recorded stories of fugitives from slavery who passed through New York City. I have begun to search for a publisher.

-Several new people joined the Steering Committee in 2008 and got right to work. Julius Archibald and Lita Kelly contributed greatly to the work of the Amendments Committee. Frank Kinnelly has taken on the responsibility of monitoring our Memberships.

We have succeeded in establishing a good name for ourselves in our first five years. We are now looking forward to having an office and regional UGRR exhibits at the Estes House in exchange for operating the Visitor's Center for the Town of Chesterfield. During the coming year we will be working on our exhibits and recruiting and preparing volunteers to greet the public. In addition, we must develop a fund raising strategy for our life-size statue, Arriving North.

We are moving to an exciting new stage in our development. Our amended Constitution and Bylaws will help us move move forward. The coming months are going to be busy.

-Don Papson

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