Feb 23, 2023 - News

What happened to the Harriet Tubman House in Boston?

The Harriet Tubman House and marker at 25 Holyoke St. in the South End. Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

During Black History month, we’re looking at what became of the local spots that made it into the “Negro Motorist Green-Book.”

Why it matters: The book listed businesses and homes that welcomed Black travelers during the Jim Crow era. The sites drew Black musicians, boxers and civil rights activists, but many of them disappeared amid urban renewal efforts.

ICYMI: Last week, we looked at what happened to one of Boston’s most iconic safe havens for Black travelers: Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe.

📍Today’s stop is the Harriet Tubman Hotel, also known as the Harriet Tubman House.

  • The 1962 edition of the Green Book lists the address as 25 Holyoke St., but the historic hotel has been in several locations over the past century before becoming part of United South End Settlements in 1959.

Then: Six Black women from Boston first opened the Harriet Tubman House at 37 Holyoke St. in the early 1900s as an homage to the famous abolitionist.

  • Julia O. Henson, a personal friend of Tubman, rented the Tubman House as a lodging space for Black women who had migrated from the South, per the USES website.
  • The house eventually moved to Henson’s home at 25 Holyoke St. She and a group of friends formed a settlement house for “assisting working girls in charitable ways.”

Of note: Tubman was named honorary president of the house four years before her death in 1913.

In 1976, the USES said the Tubman House would move to 566 Columbus Ave., which would serve as the community group’s headquarters.

  • The organization, founded as four settlement houses that provided daycare, education and health care for low-income residents, offered programming for children, adults and seniors at the Columbus Avenue building.

Now: Strained by leadership changes and unsteady finances, the USES sold the Tubman House on Columbus Avenue to New Boston Ventures, a condo developer, in 2019, per GBH News.

  • The developer is working on a six-story building with 66 condos in its place.

USES moved to 48 Rutland St. The organization says it will continue to honor Harriet Tubman’s legacy there.

A 10-foot-tall bronze statue in Harriet Tubman Square in the south Ends pictures Harriet Tubman standing in front of four enslaved people, as she helps them escape.
The Harriet Tubman statue at her namesake square. Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

What they’re saying: "Harriet Tubman’s legacy wasn’t about bricks and mortar; it’s about helping others — and that is what USES is committed to doing," the organization wrote in a fact sheet.

  • "We are taking great care to ensure that the spirit of the Harriet Tubman House continues to be a central part of USES and the communities we serve going forward," the fact sheet states.

Meanwhile, walk to 25 Holyoke St. in the South End, and you’ll find a marker commemorating the Tubman house.

  • Nearby, the Harriet Tubman Square includes a 10-foot bronze statue of her — the first statue on city-owned property honoring a woman.

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