New York PS-186 -An Abandoned School in Harlem

Michele Wallace & Yvette Porter Moore walking up to PS-186

On my list of places to go during my research trip to Harlem, was to visit the old abandoned school that my mother attended in 1933-1938.  PS-186 which is located at 523 West 145th Street and Amsterdam Avenue had been opened in 1903 and shut down in 1975.

Prior research of PS-186 led me to a blog written by Michele Wallace, the daughter of Faith Jones Ringgold, a world renowned quilter, and artist.  Michele had posted a class picture of her mother from PS-186, and when I saw it, I thought it resembled my mother’s graduating 6th grade class picture.  At that point I contacted Michele to get permission to mention her blog and the picture that she posted as I immediately felt a connection to her and her mother. Through further investigation, I discovered that Michele’s grandmother Willi Posey was a fashion designer in Harlem just like my grandmother, so I immediately needed and wanted to know more about this intriguing family whose paths crossed my family’s life.  (Blog below)

Faith Ringgold at PS-186-Graduating Class of 1942

http://mjsoulpictures.blogspot.com/search/label/Faith%20Ringgold%20

So in June of 2010, my daughter Vanessa and I, flew to New York for the first time.  I wanted to walk in the footsteps of my late mother, Betty Mae Peters Porter, and to discover the life she had lived before coming to Los Angeles and then eventually settling in San Diego, CA.  My mother did not talk much about her Beloved, Sugar Hill, New York, at least not to me, but there were times that I overheard her speaking about Sugar Hill to her friends, and my father.  My end purpose for researching my mother is to put together the pieces of my mother’s memoir that she had intended to write, as she left tape recordings and some journals of which I have inherited.

Photos by Vanessa Moore

Front of PS-186
Wonderful detail and architecture of PS-186

Michele and I enjoyed the day looking at the old PS-186 and wondered what would become of such a wonderful structure that had become an eye-sore of the community, but yet and still there appears to be some hope to revitalize the building and making it grand as it was in its’ earlier days.

On the Backside of PS-186
Michele Wallace & Yvette Porter Moore in thought about PS-186
Bulletin Board can be seen through missing window
PS-186 view of broken out window
Walking on 145th Street past PS 186

It is my hope that the local historians of Harlem take on the task of writing the history of the people that attended PS-186, as it is my understanding, that many great individuals were educated at this school such as Harry Belafonte, Faith Jones Ringgold, Arthur Mitchell, and many others.  This information might shine some light upon the abandoned school and push the powers to finally do something about this building instead of waiting until they can demolish it and put high rise apartments in its place.

Copyright
The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
© 2010-2011

Summer Trip to Harlem (June 8-18, 2010): The Town Hall

It was always my intention to blog the updates of my family research trips as I was searching and discovering the missing pieces of my family history.  However, as life happens and I got so busy doing other things, I allowed my focus to be side-tracked away from my goals of sharing, so “blogging” had been put on hold.

Alas….I still get another chance to share with you what I have done, and I am so excited to do so…..

A prior post from April 2010, I talked about the historical significance of “THE TOWN HALL.”  During my first visit to Harlem, NY, I had the opportunity to visit The Town Hall, while my daughter documented our trip through photography.

The Town Hall   Photo by Vanessa Moore

“The Town Hall has played a central role in the cultural history of New York City since January 1921, when architects McKim, Mead & White completed the building for a suffragist organization called The League for Political Education.  Built to serve as and educational forum for the discussion of important civic issues.  The People’s Hall revealed its extraordinary acoustics on Feb 12, 1921, during a recital by Spanish violinist Joan Manen.  (taken from Town Hall 88th Anniversary program)

The Town Hall has deep history for its musical performances by many greats such as Marian Anderson who made her New York Town Hall Debut on December 20, 1935, after being denied a chance to perform at other venues because of her race.  Others that have performed on the stage were, Billy Joel, Wynton Marsalis, Bill Cosby, Lionel Hampton, Max Roach, Ellen DeGeneres, and many many more.”

The Town Hall also is known for its school programs which allows elementary school children to perform on stage to debut a recital for the people of New York.

This is what brought me to the Town Hall, as my mother Betty Mae Peters performed on this very stage as an elementary school student in her first recital in 1932.

I had the opportunity to tour the interior of the Town Hall, which at the time was closed.  When I entered the building a gentleman by the name of George, who was the elevator operator, greeted me.  I shared with him that my mother as a little girl in the 30’s performed at the Town Hall and I wanted more information on the establishment.  He had me follow him into the elevator, which was the original and required an operator.  He took me to the top floor into the administrative office and told me the President was there and he would have the necessary answers.

When I walked in, the first office I came to was the President’s, and his door was wide open.  He was a big man, and was the whitest man I had ever seen…and he was not an albino.  He looked up from his desk without smiling and in a very irritated voice asked what I wanted.  I told him that he looked very busy, and I was sorry for disturbing him, but I had traveled all the way from San Diego, California and wanted to know more about The Town Hall and to take some pictures for my documentation.  He told me he was too busy, but when I told him it was very important to me and why I needed the information, he allowed his assistant to tour me around.

The young lady explained to me that this was very unusual for him to allow her to show me around as he usually does not do that.  She let me know I should take whatever pictures I could get as this is a rare occurrence.  When we completed the tour, she had me go back to her office so she could give me a historical write-up of The Town Hall.

When my visit was over, the Elevator Operator gave me a wealth of information of the Town Hall and told me if I came back another day, he would have more for me.  I did not get the opportunity to go back as my time in NY was short.

George shared with me that his father had worked at The Town Hall when he immigrated to the U.S.  He came from a line of well known performers from Russia.  His father worked at the Town Hall in the 40’s and 50’s and wanted his son to come and work there, but George didn’t until ten years ago.

George, Elevator Operator

The two hours spent at The Town Hall was amazing and it was time well-spent.  Next time I go back, I intend on attending a performance as they still hold shows today.

Copyright
The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
© 2010-2011
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