NEW BEDFORD — The bronze statue honoring abolitionist and civil rights leader Frederick Douglass will stand 7 feet tall at the entrance to the new Abolition Row park.
A $231,788 grant for design work from the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism through its Destination Development Capital Grant program will help complete funding for the community project that includes tribute status to Douglass, who was 20 when he arrived in New Bedford.
New Bedford Historical Society President Lee Blake expects the new park on Abolition Row to be completed by the end of September with plans for a soft opening to coincide with International Underground Railroad Month, when lectures and discussions are planned.
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She welcomed state and local officials to Abolition Row on Thursday afternoon and celebrated the grant announcement while reflecting on the purpose the tourism grant will support.
“This site will talk about the legacy of abolition, African American collaboration with Quakers and other white organizations who felt it was important to end slavery in this county,” a- she declared.
Students learn about the Underground Railroad
Blake was thrilled to share that eight students from around the country through the National Endowment for the Humanities are in New Bedford this week taking Underground Railroad classes and spent an entire day inside the house. Nathan and Mary (Polly) Johnson.
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The Nathan and Mary (Polly) Johnson properties circa 1800 and 1854 and the 1820 Friends Meeting House listed on the National Register of Historic Places are three significant buildings in this regard.
Destination Development Capital Grants
A total of $2.2 million in destination development capital grants for fiscal year 2023 for 20 organizations across the state were announced by Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Executive Director of the Office of Travel and of Massachusetts Tourism, Keiko Orrall, on Seventh Street.
Polito praised the collaborative efforts of community leaders and New Bedford’s many contributors who helped make the project possible while continuing to highlight Abolition Row landmarks in relation to the city’s history. .
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“I can’t wait to come back and see it reinvigorated and clearly have this beautiful statue of Frederick Douglass under the cherry trees to welcome people to this neighborhood, just as this neighborhood welcomed him,” she said. . “It’s really beautiful in so many ways.”
Orrall described Abolition Row Park as a transformational project for New Bedford and as an economic development project.
“It’s about acknowledging the history of New Bedford, celebrating the culture and really providing lasting experiences that 30 years from now will make a difference to the community,” she said.
She said it’s also a project that showcases New Bedford as a tourist destination.
Mayor Jon Mitchell said the entire block is a kind of museum honoring the city’s abolitionist past, and the new park is consistent with those efforts supported by local, state and private funding. The site once housed two buildings before they were destroyed by fire. There were over $675,000 in improvements.
“It was a collective effort because people recognize how important this particular project is, and like any other important project, it was led by a really dedicated group of people who brought in other people and brought the money with them because they’ve been so committed,” he said.
A collaborative effort
In addition to the grant, Blake said a lot of private money has been raised for the project and the nonprofit community foundation has helped fundraising with the latest fundraising campaign underway.
“We received a huge amount of donations from individuals,” she said.
Other funding includes $156,610 from the state’s Parklands Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant, $137,271 from the US Federal Bailout Act, $126,208 from Community Preservation Act funds, $15,000 from the United States Conference of Mayors and $10,000 from the Bristol County Savings Bank.
In about a week, construction crews will return to the site to begin work installing a gazebo. Infrastructure works are complete with underground water and electricity.
Administered by the Tourism Trust Fund, the Destination Development Capital Grant program is funded by the Capital Budget under the Baker-Polito administration’s Partnerships for Recovery Plan initiative to help stabilize and grow the tourism industry from Massachusetts.
Overall, the plan aims to get people back to work, support small businesses, foster innovation, revitalize downtowns and provide housing stability.
Standard-Times editor Kathryn Gallerani can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @kgallreporter. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.