PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - The site of a historic anti-slavery meeting house and former underground railroad station was at risk of redevelopment in Plymouth Meeting.
Now, advocates of Abolition Hall and the 10.45 acre Corson Tract property off Butler Pike can rest assured. It was acquired by Whitemarsh Township and Whitemarsh Art Center for $3.95 million in November. The Karabots Foundation provided a $2 million grant and the remaining costs were paid for by the Township’s Open Space Earned Income Tax.
On Tuesday, local, county and state leaders came together inside Abolition Hall to celebrate the momentous occasion of preserving this significant landmark.
"The importance of preserving history and working together. It’s so critical to remember history, even painful history. The fact that this happened today, December 6, when [the 13th Amendment] was ratified, that we were voting against having slavery in our constitution 157 years ago is remarkable, that today we’re honoring this gift agreement," said Chair Laura Boyle-Nester of the Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors.
"I’m feeling very excited, very thankful that this day has come to fruition," said Athena Karabots, Karabots Foundation. "My husband, it’s something he’s always wanted to do, we both have. Our children were raised here, they’ve gone to school here from the day they were born, so Whitemarsh Township is my home."
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The Karabots Foundation’s focus on serving underprivileged youth will continue to be carried out now at Abolition Hall, which the Whitemarsh Art Center will call its center of operations.
"It’s extraordinary because we have an opportunity for the past to truly inform us as we move forward," said Allison Boyle, Director of Development at Whitemarsh Art Center. "Abolition movement in this country is not over, and we need to rededicate ourselves to that work, and that’s why the Art Center is so excited to be able to be a part of this. It will enable us to provide an artistic experience for people of all means and of all abilities."
Abolition Hall was built by George Corson. Johnny Corson, the President of the Pottstown NAACP, later learned he was a relative and shared remarks these remarks.
"Back in 1856, George Corson and others here in Plymouth Meeting realized that Black Lives Matter. They put their lives on the line. They opened up their homes," said Johnny.
Leading abolitionist speakers including Frederick Douglas and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Famous abolitionists such as Frederick Douglas and Harriet Beecher Stowe spoke at Abolition Hall, which could accommodate up to 200 visitors.
"Abolition Hall, in many respects, was a place of refuge, a place where folks could come to seek refuge, to be safe to be secure, to gather themselves and to then further their path, further their journey, towards freedom," said State Senator Vincent Hughes (D) PA District 7.
Whitemarsh Township presented the Karabots Family with a key to the township as a token of their appreciation.