Petersburg home with possible ties to Underground Railroad torn down

Posted at 7:07 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-12 19:07:02-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- A home in disrepair in Petersburg was torn down Monday and some local historians say the city may have just lost an important piece of history.

The more than 200 year old home, complete with wooden pegs and handmade nails is now exposed in the rubble, was built circa 1809-1830,” according to Petersburg's preservation planner Kate Sangregorio.

"It was used in the Underground Railroad, hiding slaves out on the way to freedom," said Pocahontas Island historian and unofficial mayor Richard Stewart.

Stewart, 76, was born on Pocahontas Island and has lived on the island his entire life.

"The old people back in the day told me the story,” he said.

The exact details about the home’s involvement in the Underground Railroad are scarce.

"It's hard to prove anything with the Underground Railroad because everything was so secretive but there was strong oral ties to this house being involved in the Underground Railroad,” said Sangregorio.

Monday a contractor leveled the house, which was in disrepair.

The City of Petersburg tried to save the home, according to Brad Shupp, a property maintenance official for the city.

"We've been trying to work with them to sell the house to someone who could save it and unfortunately today we found out that it is being torn town, as it is their right, that was their right to do,” said Shupp.

The demolition broke no City Code and leaves more than just another vacant lot.

"It did have a special place in the hearts of everyone in this community," said Sangregorio.

"Because it's history and history is always important," said 95-year-old old Mary Cox, who lives next door to the now demolished house.

"I feel sort of sad that it's gone because I would of liked to seen it be a part of Pocahontas history".

The house was also one of the few homes on Pocahontas Island with a unique feature, according to Stewart.

"This had a cellar in it and you'd hide slaves beneath the house, and you'd seal the wall up until time for them to be sent off,” said Stewart.

And now he says it's gone.

"Once it's gone, it's gone you know. Never gonna come back," he added.

Mary Cox says she'd like to see some sort of marker put on the site, to let future generations know about the house and its ties to the Underground Railroad.

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