Search Results for: t. thomas fortune

FEBRUARY IS FORTUNE MONTH IN RED BANK

At their first working session on January 8, 2014, the members of the Red Bank Borough Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring February to be T. Thomas Fortune month in the borough.

The resolution was introduced by Cindy Burnham, who was recently elected to the council. February is nationally designated as Black History Month, and the resolution serves as a formal recognition to a great human rights activist.
Born into slavery, Fortune’s trailblazing rise as a firebrand journalist, publisher and writer rebuked the government’s failed attempt at Reconstruction, which led to the rise of Jim Crow and black code laws. Fortune has been credited with being the bridge to the modern day Civil Rights Movement. In 1880, he formed the Afro American League, which was a pre-curser to the NAACP.

From 1901 to 1911, Fortune resided at the home he called Maple Hill, at 94 West Bergen Avenue (now known as Drs. James Parker Boulevard).  While living there, he entertained such black leaders as Booker T. Washington. He also edited the works of Marcus Garvey while living there.

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SAVING A FORTUNE, IN RB REAL ESTATE

fortune-house2011Red Bank’s T. Thomas Fortune House, pictured in a 2011 file photo, is the subject of an ongoing effort to rescue and preserve the property as a community cultural center. (photo by Dustin Racioppi)

From press materials furnished by T. Thomas Fortune Preservation Project

It’s one of only 57 National Historic Landmarks in the state of New Jersey — one of just two related to African American history. Yet for years, the Red Bank property known as the T. Thomas Fortune House has sat boarded up; deemed uninhabitable — even unfit for showing to prospective purchasers — in its current condition.

Here in 2013, an organization known as the T. Thomas Fortune Preservation Project seeks to acquire, stabilize and restore the home at 94 Drs. James Parker Boulevard (formerly Bergen Place), with the aim of developing the Second Empire-style structure into a cultural center that will celebrate the legacy of such borough-based leaders in the arts and community service as William “Count” Basie and the Parker family.

Working in partnership with the Red Bank Men’s Club Foundation and the leadership of the National Landmarks Alliance and Garden State Legacy, the Preservation Project describes its membership as “a group of educators, architects, writers, attorneys, performance artists, and more who have come together to share the legacy of an outstanding figure in American history, for the benefit of all.”

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ROUND TWO FOR FORTUNE HOUSE

fortune-house1A ‘for sale’ was planted out front of the T. Thomas Fortune House on Drs. James Parker Boulevard last week. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Four years after a historic Red Bank house was spared a possible meeting with the steel maw of a bulldozer, the T. Thomas Fortune house is back on the market at a sharply reduced price.

Though the house and acre of land it sits on have been available to buyers on and off for years, vandalism prompted the owners to plant a ‘for sale’ sign on the lawn last week, reigniting worries of preservationists. They fear the the three-story, Second Empire-style home to post-Civil War black newspaperman and activist T. Thomas Fortune might be razed.

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NO-BIG-MISFORTUNE HOUSE

Fortune_house_808The former home of African-American journalist T. Thomas Fortune is safe — for now, that is.

There’s demolition work underway at the historic Fortune house property on Drs. James Parker Boulevard, but no reason to be alarmed, says unofficial Red Bank historian George Bowden, who’s been fighting to preserve the place.

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A FORTUNE IN BLACK HISTORY, RIGHT HERE

Img_3694Four-year old Maya Williams, center, examines a display at the one-night Black History Month exhibit last night. Maya was joined by her sister Kayla, 10, at left and Amani Cureton, also 10.

About 150 people gathered Wednesday evening at the River Street Commons for a Black History Month event with unmistakable local ties.

Framed by depictions of African-American life in the mass media, the event focused on the life and work of T. (Timothy) Thomas Fortune, a pioneering African-American journalist who was born a a slave and lived on what is now Drs. James Parker Boulevard. Preservationists are hoping to save the house.

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SLEDGER SPOTLIGHTS FORTUNE HOUSE

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Today’s Sunday Star-Ledger has an extensive piece about the black activist journalist T. (Timothy) Thomas Fortune and the effort to save his longtime Red Bank home from the wrecking ball — or, as the article’s author puts it, “from predatory developers.”

The story’s not online; so far, it appears only in the print version’s Perspective section.

Authored by Claire Serant, a journalism professor at St. John’s University, the article notes that Fortune was born a slave in 1856, wrote for the white-owned New York Sun — “which was no small feat in the late 1800s” — and helped found a predecessor organization to the NAACP.

He also founded three national newspapers. One of them, the New York Age, “was the most widely read black newspaper of the era,” Serant writes. And he used the term “Afro-Americans” to denote black people at the time when ‘colored’ and ‘Negro’ were the standards.

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NO SALE FOR FORTUNE HOUSE, FOR NOW

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A proposed deal that would have put the historic T. Thomas Fortune house into the hands of developers is dead for now, redbankgreen has learned.

Real estate broker Geoff Brothers, who is handling the sale, confirmed that the would-be buyers, who have not been publicly identified, have withdrawn their offer.

George Bowden, chairman of the Red Bank Historic Preservation Commission, said the demise of the deal is, “in many respects, happy news.

“We’ve been sweating that one out for months,” he said.

Preservationists earlier this year won a key historic designation for the house, which was owned and occupied early in the 20th century by Fortune, a pioneering African-American journalist.

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PRESS: OFFER MADE ON FORTUNE HOUSE

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A group of undisclosed buyers has made an offer for the historic T. Thomas Fortune house on Drs. Parker Boulevard, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

A contract has yet to be signed by the sellers, the paper reports. But the prospect of a sale has mobilized historic preservationists in recent months. They fear that the next owner of the property, home nearly a century ago to one of America’s most prominent African-American journalists, will tear it down for redevelopment.

Commercial real estate broker Geoff Brothers, who is handling the sale, tells the Press that the prospective buyers are sensitive to the historical importance of the site.

“The house is a grand old structure. It would behoove everyone to see it maintained, and that is the intent of all parties,” Brothers said. “It will require some cooperative effort from the borough and contract purchaser.”

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FORTUNE HOUSE’S GOOD FORTUNE, FOR NOW

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The T. Thomas Fortune House, home to one of America’s first African-American newspaper publishers — and coiner of the term ‘African-American’ — is among New Jersey’s 10 most endangered historic locales, a statewide conservation group said yesterday.

The inclusion of the house by Preservation New Jersey is the latest in a series of designations granted to the structure at 94 Drs. James Parker Boulevard. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and to a comparable New Jersey list three years later.

Still, like the designations that came before it, the latest one conveys no special status should the current or a future owner of the property decide to tear it down. And that possibility has Red Bank history buffs on edge because the house is up for sale by its longtime owners, the Vaccarelli family.

“It doesn’t give us any leverage to stop a demolition,” says George Bowden, chairman of the borough’s Historic Preservation Committee. “But the concern is there. This is one we don’t want to go down the tubes.”

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RED BANK: WORDS AND MUSIC IN THE PARK


Five thousand strong, music lovers found a few hours of respite from everyday noise when the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra played an open-air concert in Red Bank’s Marine Park last summer.

This Sunday, the NJSO returns to the park with another free show, where those in attendance will also get a chance to connect to the borough’s history via the written word.

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RBR FRESHMEN DISCUSS HISTORY, HARMONY

Gilda Rogers Sid Bernstein SummerSlamLeft to right: Citizens for a Diverse and Open Society founders Gilda Rogers and Sid Bernstein were joined by performing artist and writer Lorraine Stone as special guests of the Summer Slam program at Red Bank Regional High School. 

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

During the height of summer, the Red Bank Regional High School building is a busy place, with a myriad of educational programming designed to better prepare its students for September. As the largest of those activities, Summer Slam saw 110 students attending a four-week session (operated by school-based youth services program The SOURCE) which infuses academic topics (Math, English, Science, Global Studies) with special events like an athletic team-building challenge coordinated by The Community YMCA, as well as visits from influential community members.

This summer’s two-time guest speaker was educator, author and community activist Gilda Rogers of Red Bank, who during her first visit introduced the students to the ongoing project to renovate the historic T. Thomas Fortune House. She returned the next day to discuss ways students could combat racism; accompanying Gilda for that second meeting was Sid Bernstein of Lincroft, a retired businessman with whom she co-founded the group Citizens for a Diverse and Open Society (CDOS).

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HISTORY v. AFFORDABLE HOUSING?

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The prospective buyers of the historic T. Thomas Fortune house property want to develop the site into affordable housing, according to a press release from the borough Historic Preservation Commission.

The names of the would-be buyers have yet to be disclosed, and this is the first we’re hearing of what they’ve got planned for the site, at 94 Drs. James Parker Boulevard.

If the report is true, though, the plan would appear to pit the historians against preservationists of another stripe: those who want to keep the West Side an affordable place to live.

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RED BANK: VIEWS SPLIT ON MUMFORD PLAN

A rendering of the building, dubbed The Parker, proposed for Shrewsbury Avenue at River Street. (Image by Thomas J. Brennan Architects. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot topic red bank njA proposal for four stories of new retail and apartments on Shrewsbury Avenue got mixed reviews at Thursday’s meeting of the Red Bank zoning board.

It’s “huge,” said a board member and one resident. It’s a welcome replacement to the two vacant homes now on the site, said two other commenters.

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RED BANK: APARTMENTS & STORES PROPOSED

Two houses on Shrewsbury Avenue at River Street would be demolished to make way for the project, dubbed The Parker at Red Bank. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot topic red bank njA proposal for new stores topped by three floors of apartments is slated for review by the Red Bank zoning board this week.

Developer Roger Mumford‘s plan would transform half a block of Shrewsbury Avenue, but first needs multiple variances.

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RED BANK: BASIE TOUR & MORE ON AN APP

An app-in-development reported on by redbankgreen last September is now available, offering users its first history tour of Red Bank.

The tour spotlights significant places in the early life of William ‘Count’ Basie, the world-renowned bandleader who grew up in a Mechanic Street house on the site of the one shown above.

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SHREWSBURY: YMCA HONORS DR. KING

MLK essay winner Alexandra Lewis is a senior at Red Bank Regional High School. 

[Press release]

It was an unconventional commemoration to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But the theme of love, perseverance and service shined throughout YMCA of Greater Monmouth County’s first virtual event honoring the civil rights leader. Read More »

RED BANK: DEMOCRATS FORM BLACK CAUCUS

Fortune Cultural Center co-founder Gilda Rogers, left, and Councilman Michael Ballard. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

Red Bank’s Democrats have formed a Black caucus to “bring forward future civic leaders.”

The party announced the group’s formation on Monday, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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SHREWSBURY: LOVE TO RECEIVE KING AWARD

Gwendolyn Love, executive director of Lunch Break, will receive the Dr. King Human Dignity Award at the YMCA’s virtual Dr. King commemoration January 15. (Photo by Danny Sanchez.)

Press release from the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County

2020 was filled with uncertainty and canceled events near and far, but the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County is busy preparing for its annual community celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Like so many other important events taking place during the coronavirus pandemic, the commemoration will be a live virtual event hosted on Zoom, Friday, January 15.
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RED BANK: ILLUMINATING THE TOWN’S PAST

Marjorie Cavalier in Red Bank with the replacement Port of Red Bank sign she championed. The old sign  was already in bad shape in 2011, as seen at right in the photo below. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

A weather-beaten historical marker in Red Bank’s Marine Park was replaced last month, after some gentle lobbying by a recently retired teacher and history buff.

But Marjorie Cavalier, who pushed for replacement of the illegible ‘Port of Red Bank’ sign, isn’t finished. She’s now turned her attention to development of an app to help illuminate borough’s past. Read More »

RED BANK: BALLARD & ZIPPRICH TO RUN AGAIN

Ed Zipprich, left, won a fourth term, and Michael Ballard, right, won his first in the 2017 election. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Two incumbent Democrats will defend their seats on the Red Bank council in the November election, the party announced Monday.

In an unsurprising move, the municipal and county Democratic committees unanimously endorsed Councilman Ed Zipprich‘s pursuit of a fifth three-year term, and Michael Ballard‘s quest for a second.

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MIDDLETOWN: GEORGE BOWDEN DIES

red bank george bowdenGeorge Bowden, right, with Historic Preservation Commission members Charles Nickerson and Michaela Ferrigine in 2016. Below, Bowden spearheaded the borough’s centennial celebration and parade in 2009.(Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

red bank george bowdenGeorge Bowden, once dubbed “the Energizer bunny” of historic preservation in Red Bank, died at home in Middletown Sunday. He was 92 years old.

Galvanized into action in 2001, after the borough allowed the demolition of an old house on West Front Street, Bowden became a champion for old and neglected structures in town.

Not least of those was the T. Thomas Fortune House, which was resurrected from near-oblivion earlier this year, more than a decade after Bowden and others launched a campaign to save it.

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SHREWSBURY: YMCA HOSTS ESSAY CONTEST

Local high school students are invited to participate in the annual YMCA Dr. King essay contest.

The YMCA of Greater Monmouth County is pleased to announce that the annual essay contest held in conjunction with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial breakfast in January has been expanded to all students in Monmouth County.

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RED BANK: RETHINKING SHREWSBURY AVENUE

RU shrewsbury avenue 100619 Student planners from Rutgers led the information-gathering session at the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center. Below, a map on display at the event. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

Worries about gentrification and pedestrian safety were at the fore as Red Bank residents gathered for a brainstorming session about the future of Shrewsbury Avenue Wednesday night.

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RED BANK: ‘MAGIC WAND’ IDEAS SOUGHT

RED BANK SHREWSBURY AVE 032819Student planners from Rutgers will solicit ideas for improving neighborhoods along Shrewsbury Avenue. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot topic red bank njHere’s a ‘magic wand’ question for you: if you could instantly transform Shrewsbury Avenue in Red Bank, what would it become?

Ditto for creating direct access to the Navesink River from Broad Street: what’s your dream?

Borough residents and other interested parties will get to weigh in on those questions and more Wednesday night.

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