Restoring Pride in Culture: Henry Street Project

 

The support of the restoration of a threatened historic property on Henry Street in the city of Kingston represents a dual opportunity to create a needed venue of community cultural activity on the street that represents African American cultural identity and the revitalization of historic structures on a historically significant but neglected street in the inner city of Kingston.

 

The historic significance of the Burger-Matthews house relates to the history of Kingston in its rise as an important shipping and manufacturing city in the Hudson Valley.    The neglect and threats to this house represent the other side of that history in the decline of the inner city and the struggle of peoples of African descent.  The restoration of this property by TRANSART represents the reversal of that trend.

 

At present, the property is threatened on several levels.  It has stood vacant in a distressed area for over a decade.  It is salvageable, and still structurally sound, but requires resources soon.

 

The Burger-Matthews house has had a difficult history. The property was a residence from its construction in 1873 until it was sold in 1996, gutted and abandoned a few years later.  It has stood vacant for over a decade and withstood repeated changing of hands, gutting, neglect, frequent break-ins and vandalism and is threatened by, overall, the cost of restoration in relation to its market value.  TRANSART will use the building for exhibition and educational space on the ground floor and administrative space on the second floor.  This property is not feasible to restore as a residence given the local market conditions.

 

With the work of the Friends of the Historic Kingston to raise awareness of the value of this property in the neglected historic Midtown neighborhood, the Kingston community recognized the value of this property when it was listed as a local landmark in 2002.     Unfortunately, there are still local leaders who do not support historic preservation in general or the protection of this property.  In 2007 the New York State Office of Historic Preservation designated the property a state historic landmark.  In 2008 the last owners of the property Jennifer Schwartz and Todd Diffee transferred ownership of the property to TRANSART as a gift.  This gift coupled with the Governor’s Environmental Protection Fund grant enabled TRANSART to begin the restoration of the property.

 

TRANSART’s presence in and stewardship of the Burger Matthews house will be very beneficial to Henry Street and Midtown. Our mission, programs and Strategic Plan are all focused on programming to reach out to and represent the African American community, particularly youth, with the recognition and valuing of cultural resources.

 

TRANSART fills a void in the Hudson Valley as the only African American cultural organization.

 

P.O. Box 148 West Park, New York, 12493- 0148           info@transartinc.org             1 - 845 384- 6350