Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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Frederick Douglass' South Wedge Home

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Rochester: Frederick Douglass' South Wedge Home
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Every home has its own unique story.

"I was overwhelmed just to have that type of connection to the history," said Sherri Dukes, Homeowner.

The specific connection was unknown to Sherri Dukes for more than three decades until she got a knock on her door back in 2003.

"I got over there very fast, said Historian Jean Czerkas. "Historian It was called Hamilton Place then and it is now Hamilton Street. I told her what I was there for and she just welcomed me with open arms really and took me through the whole house."

As it turns out, the home Sherri lived in since 1972 once belonged to none other than Rochester abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

"I was just overwhelmed," said Dukes. "His home, where his family lived, and I raised my family here, my husband and myself.

Local historian Jean Czerkas was sifting through some ledgers for the Mt. Hope Cemetery when a receipt caught her eye. Frederick's daughter Rosetta and her husband Nathan Sprague ordered a marble monument for their daughter's gravesite with the mailing address: 271 Hamilton Street.

"He had been here for over twenty five of the most active years of his life; he met with Lincoln when he was living here," said Czerkas.

What was believed to be Frederick Douglass' only Rochester home burned in a fire. As it turns out, another landmark still stands in Rochester's Southwedge.

Czerkas said, "He owned it until the day he died."

And Jean knows every inch of the home, including the fireplace that is the focal point of Sherri's dining room.

"Rosetta's husband Nathan ordered a very lovely fireplace mantle... I think it cost about sixty nine dollars. That was a lot of money way back then," said Czerkas.

And Sherri has combined her taste with that of Frederick Douglass and his legacy.

"I always listened to classical music and always had the violin but once I learned more about Frederick Douglass I found out he never went anywhere without his violin," Dukes said.

A plaque will eventually be place in front of the house, designating it an official historic landmark. Sherri is preparing to offer tours of her home.

"The only thing we had of Frederick Douglass here was his cemetery plot and now we know that there was a house that he had and that he lived in," said Czerkas.

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