Nyack Center more than a community building, a place for building community through...events by Dr. Lori Martin
Nyack Center more than a community building, a place for building community through...events, which create opportunities for residents to share proud traditions and shape the future. Nyack Center is the site where people historically pushed to the margins are welcomed and celebrated. Nyack Center embodies many of the qualities that make Nyack a community that people far and wide always consider home. It is fitting that Nyack Center is located in the heart of our beloved community because Nyack Center represents the soul of the community.
Dr. Lori Martin
Associate Professor at LSU
Bench by the Road 2015
Dr. Lori Martin is the author of "The Ex-Slave's Fortune: The Story of Cynthia D. Hesdra." It was the story of Cynthia Hesdra that inspired Nyack's Bench by the Road project.
The Nyack bench is 15 in a series of benches throughout the United States. The Toni Morrison Society's "Bench by the Road" project was inspired by comments the writer made about the lack of recognition for the history of enslaved Africans. "There is no place you or I can go, to think about or not think about, to summon the presences of, or recollect the absences of slaves," Morrison told The World magazine. "There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath, or wall, or park, or skyscraper lobby. There's no 300-foot tower, there's no small bench by the road. ... And because such a place doesn't exist ... the book had to." Nyack's Bench by the Road was dedicated to Cynthia Hesdra last May 2015.
Link to lohud video of the dedication day-http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/05/18/toni-morrison-speaks-at-bench-dedication/27562767/
Who Was Cynthia Hesdra?-reprinted fom Nyack Sketch Log
Cynthia Hesdra was born a slave in Tappan, New York in 1808 to John and Jane Moore. Cynthia’s father, one of the wealthiest men of his time, owned and operated a mill in Sparkill. He also constructed mill wheels that were said to have produced blankets for soldiers fighting in the Civil War.
She eventually met and married a man by Edward Hesdra, the son of a white Virginia planter and a free black woman from Haiti. After their marriage, the couple purchased Cynthia’s freedom. The two settled on Amity Street in New York City. Cynthia operated a successful laundry business in New York City and she owned several properties there.
Eventually, she took her trade to Nyack, NY, where she also accumulated property and operated a business. Among the many properties owned by Cynthia and Edward, was a house located near the intersection of Route 9W and Main Street in Nyack that was part of the Historic Underground Railroad. The Hesdras were rumored to have been in charge of the station between Jersey City, NJ and Newburgh, NY. The house was destroyed during the period of Urban Renewal in the 1970s.
When Cynthia Hesdra died on February 9, 1879, she was reportedly worth $100,000, the equivalent of 3 million in contemporary dollars. In 2010, Piermont Ave. between Hudson and Depew was renamed Cynthia Hesdra Way.
Artist and Event Organizer, Bill Batson pictured with Dr. Toni Morrison.
Nyack Center staff & community members submit posts highlighting our community.