Historical Research Trip To Sugar Hill, Harlem, New York

 Life on Sugar Hill
I am writing my mother’s memoirs of “Sugar Hill” New York between 1926 and 1950. It is a story written from a daughter’s perspective.
Betty Peters-1929 Photo by D’Laigle

Currently I am researching the Sugar Hill neighborhood of Manhattan, and will raise-the-bar of my research by visiting New York this June 2010.  My daughter Vanessa will go with me, as she is my official photographer and will document our footprints.  We will be staying in a local Bed & Breakfast which is located two blocks from the actual Apartments my mother lived. This will allow me to walk the streets my mother walked and breathe in the culture of Harlem that my mother knew so well.

Betty Mae Peters, 16 yrs old

When I was a little girl, my mother recorded her life stories of New York and the background of her family history on tape.  She would tell me that she was writing a book, but never got around to finishing her project. This is why I feel the strong need to finish her book, even though there is so much that has been taken with her in death.  For this very reason, we should never put off what we can do today.

My mother, Betty Mae Peters Porter was born in New York City on November 17, 1926 to Agnes Cully and Charles I. Peters. She was an only child. Betty grew up in the “Sugar Hill” area of New York City where she attended George Washington High School.  Always an organizer and socialite, Betty and her life time friend, Marilyn “Mickey” Sullivan formed and belonged to a club during their childhood called the “149 Street Queens.”
Her mother, Agnes, was a well known seamstress and fashion designer. Her clients included Marian Anderson, Betty Davis, Barbara Rush, Joan Crawford and other celebrities. Betty often modeled in her mother’s fashion show in New York City.
Marian Anderson and My Grandmother Agnes Cully Peters.  My Grandmother was her personal fashion designer
Betty was always an excellent student. She received a dual bachelor’s degree in English and Journalism from New York University in 1947. Her skills and clever talents in writing were evident in her unique holiday letters received by friends and relatives. Betty and her mother moved to Los Angeles, where her Aunt Zara Cully Brown was an actress, also known as “Mother Jefferson” in the television sitcom “The Jefferson’s” (staring Sherman Hensley, and Isabelle Sanford.)
My Great Aunt Zara Cully Brown

While in Los Angeles, Betty received her CA teaching credential from Los Angeles State College, and attended Pepperdine University, where she received her Master of Arts degree in Multicultural Education. Betty became very popular and active in the social and political circles of the Los Angeles Community. Betty taught at Rosewood Elementary School and later founded the Friendship Guild where she was president. This was an elite organization of women who remained as Betty’s dearest friends throughout her life.

In 1957, Betty met and married the late Dr. Walter J. Porter. They moved to San Diego, CA in 1969, and became very active in the field of education, musical and civic affairs. They also became the proud parents of two loving children. Betty taught classes for the Gifted and Talented Students at the elementary school level in San Diego City Schools for many years, retiring in 1992. She was an avid reader, and an excellent cook. A “gathering” at the Porter household was always a special treat. She was very supportive of “Wally’s” numerous activities as she shared forty-four memorable years with him until hes death in 2001. She also enjoyed spending time with her seven grandchildren.
Betty was a member of the San Diego -Tema Sister City Society, the African Arts Committee, The Chapel of Awareness in Encinitas and was an Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Silver Star, (Epsilon Xi Omega Chapter). Betty was a breast cancer survivor who tried to impress on others the importance of yearly exams. She suffered a massive stroke on Christmas Eve, which took her life.

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

P.S. 186–Historical Educational Site in Harlem: What Will Be It’s Fate?

PS 186 in it’s Hey Days.

I have searched for historical information online regarding P.S. 186, A Harlem NY Elementary School of which my late mother Betty Peters attended between the years of 1932-1938. I have been pleasantly surprised to find any mention of the school, as I have googled P.S. 186 on a couple of previous occasions with no success. Very recently, I discovered that P.S. 186 had been abandoned for over 30 years and that currently a local movement has been ensued to save the structural building from demolition and deem it as a historical building as it has been around for over 107 years.I had written one of my mother’s dear friends Muriel Ferguson requesting information on Sugar Hill and things that she could share with me about my mother between the years of 1926-1950. In Muriel’s letter, she questioned if my mother ever mentioned P.S. 186. She also stated that the school probably had been demolished by now, since the school had been closed for many years.As I continued looking for answers regarding the fate of P.S. 186, I came across Nathan Kensinger, A Professional Photographer, who documents a world that the average eye does not have the opportunity to penetrate. He enters buildings that have not seen the light of day, and have been ultimately abandoned while being a victim to the elements. These buildings and outside structures that Kensinger captures with his lens possess very distinct architecture characteristics. Nathan gives us the vision to see how these buildings and structures were used in their heyday, and what they could be if they were revitalized. For a clearer picture of P.S. 186 and Kensinger’s other photographs of art go to:

As I continued researching online, I came across Dr. Faith (Jones) Ringgold, a world-renowned quilter, who was raised in Sugar Hill. I discovered that she attended P.S. 186, and thought to myself that if she attended this school, that there must be other well-known individuals that attended this school and should give credence to the historical value of the school building and the importance of saving such a structure. Dr. Ringgold’s 6th grade graduation picture is posted on her blog @ http://mjsoulpictures.blogspot.com/2009/08/faiths-6th-grade-graduation-in-1942.html.
Betty Mae Peters graduating class of 1938 at PS 186
Top 2nd Row, 5th person on left

Other’s that might have attended this school are: Harry Belafonte and Alan Greenspan. There are many well known individuals that lived in Sugar Hill, that the likelihood of other mover & Shakers being developed from this area and attending PS 186 is quite possible. I believe that we should make an effort to save the school by notifying NY local politicians, and pleading with those that have the ultimate decision on retaining the historical value of the neighborhood.

There was a petition to Save PS 186 that was posted online, of which 300 people signed, closed as of March 2010.
Uptownflavor has posted details of PS 186 and if you would like updated information on the progress of the petition and decision of the building to link to:

Update:  I had the opportunity to travel to Harlem and see firsthand the condition of PS-186.  The buildings architect was amazing…To see post click here. 

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