New York State Historic District
In September 2002, the Rapp Road Community was designated a NYS historic district. Four months later it was added to the National Historic Registry. This designation was the first of its kind in the State. New York State has 3 specific criteria that buildings and historic districts have to fit into to become designated on the historic register. The Rapp Road Community fell under criteria A & B.
Criterion A states that the property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history. – In this case the Rapp Road Community meets these guidelines in the areas of social and cultural history through its association with the Great Migration. The Great Migration began during WWI when African Americans started leaving the South in large numbers to make new homes in the North. The Rapp Road Community is a direct result of this phenomenon. Furthermore, it is significant as a rare example of a rural African-American chain migration community that is still intact and flourishing.
Criterion B states that the property is associated with the lives of person significant in our past. – In this case the community is significant because it illustrates the end product of one person’s personal accomplishments. It was established by and the home of Elder Louis W. Parson, pastor of the First Church of God and Christ. He was responsible for recruiting the majority of Rapp Road families from the South. In both 1930 and 1933, Elder Parson bought a 14-acre tract of land in the western extension of the City of Albany in the Pine Bush and sold tracts of land to members of his church. Between 1942 and 1963, 23 African-American families bought land from these tracts after finding life in Albany’s South End disagreeable.
The nomination process for this project was very long. Until this point, very little was written about the community. The local libraries, archives, and museums had no information on the Rapp Road Community and the people who lived there. The community’s history existed in the memories and photographs of its residents. Oral history interviews were conducted to obtain this information, which helped document the community’s history for the historical nomination.
Each house or piece of property that would be included in the district had to be historically documented. Because these houses are not architecturally significant, the social histories of the people living in the houses and property deeds were recorded.
Lastly, support letters from politicians, community leaders, organizations, and scholars were gathered. Most nominations have 2-3 support letters. The Rapp Road Community had 14.
All of this documentation was turned over to the New York State Historic Preservation board where it was presented and voted on unanimously.
Research is currently underway to preserve and document the history of the Rapp Road Community. If you have any information, photographs, or objects that relate to any aspect of Rapp Road or to Albany and the Great Migration, please contact us.
The Rapp Road Community History Project
is devoted to recording, researching, and discussing
the history of the Rapp Road Community.