This article was originally written in hopes of highlighting lodges, inns and AirBnBs that have ties to The Underground Railroad. But something happened during our research: we discovered numerous properties, once used as stops for runaway slaves, made no mention of their connection to the organization that aided in the liberating of thousands of African-Americans. We aren’t asking the properties to use this piece of history as calling cards, but an acknowledgment in the “Our History” section would be nice. On numerous websites I could find information spanning hundreds of years about building additions, deed transfers, birth certificates, occupations of owners, their children and even the grandchildren. So why not mention a noble deed that helped change the course of this country. The history is there for all to see… but apparently they are White-Washing it.
There is history that connects dozens of homes throughout the present day United States, many of which now function as AirBnBs or bed and breakfasts to the Underground Railroad. Most served as “stations”, stops for runaway slaves on their journey to freedom. During the mid-19th century, “conductors” helped slaves by providing safe passage at “stations” from Florida to Michigan. Many of these stations were inside the homes of abolitionists that risked imprisonment, hanging and branding for helping runaway slaves escape into northern territories. Today, many of those homes are welcoming guests like you and I with warm beds and cooked meals. Some are embracing – or at minimum acknowledging – their history, which is why we elected to include them from this list. But others, for some reason, are not embracing their past.
Below is a list of six properties that are #ForTheCulture destinations for travelers looking to reconnect with America’s history. But before checking in, make sure to read up on the Underground Railroad or at minimum watch 2019’s Harriet. The film focuses on the efforts of Harriet Tubman, an African-American woman that helped over 300 slaves escape by moving them from station to station.
Sarah Harris was a doctor, botanist and abolitionist. Her northwest Illinois home provided shelter for runaway slaves on Underground Railroad. There is still a tunnel under the mansion that used during the civil war era. Harris’ home is now called The Steamboat House.
The “grand 7,000 square foot inn offers privacy in the form of five spacious and beautifully appointed guest-rooms, cozy parlors, and a wraparound front porch and screened garden gazebo … ceilings on the first floor are 13 feet high and are lit with antique Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers.” Much of the property remains unchanged from its original 1855 build.
The Steamboat House
605 S Prospect Street
Galena, Illinois 61036
Originally built in 1699, Ashley Manor has provided its share of historical contributions over the centuries. According to Curb, “African-Americans escaping slavery used a secret passage connecting the upstairs and downstairs of the inn. The ladder that was used in the secret passage can still be found in the King George Suite.” The property was also a hideout for the tories during The Revolutionary War.
Evidence of its age and history can be seen in the “wide-board flooring (wood usually reserved for the king during colonial times), huge open-hearth fireplaces (one with a beehive oven) and hand-glazed wainscoting throughout the Inn.” Ashley Manor is now an award-winning inn with six guests rooms.
3660 Main Street
Barnstable, Massachussets 02630
The Munro House is one the few properties on this list embracing rich ties to the Underground Railroad. The Michigan bed and breakfast has a 100-foot tunnel once used by slaves. There’s also a trap door in the basement that leads up to a secret room between the first and second floors. “If you didn’t know it was there, you could never find it,” innkeeper Mike Venturini says. Approximately 400 slaves stayed here over the course of 15 years before escaping into Canada.
Known abolitionist George Clinton Munro originally purchased only a wood frame house on this property in 1834. Six years later, according to the inn’s current website, he “constructed the brick Greek Revival addition that is connected to the original house and is now the main entrance.” It’s the same entrance children, guests and visitors today use before checking into their rooms or taking a guided tour of the property.
The Munro House
202 Maumee Street
Jonesville, Michigan, 49250