What’s Happening at Evans HHS
New Signage Marks Kickoff of Oberlin’s Evans House NPS “Save America’s Treasures” Project
On Saturday, November 12, 2022, members and trustees of the Wilson Bruce Evans Home Historical Society (Evans HHS) celebrated the kickoff of a major rehabilitation project made possible by a $283,250 grant from the Department of Interior, National Park Service (NPS) funded through the Historic Preservation Fund and “Save America’s Treasures” program, for the National Historic Landmark Wilson Bruce Evans House in Oberlin, Ohio. This year, only eighty of these grants were awarded in 32 states and the District of Columbia for a total of $24.3 for projects across the United States; the Wilson Bruce Evans House was the only project funded in the state of Ohio. With these awards, organizations and agencies conserve significant U.S. cultural and historic resources, which illustrate, interpret, and are associated with the great events, ideas, and individuals that contribute to our nation’s history and culture. The Society is thrilled that Wilson Bruce Evans House at 33 East Vine Street has been identified, once again, as a site of national significance.
Built in 1856 by free born African American cabinet maker Wilson Bruce Evans, the house at 33 East Vine Street holds memories of Evans’ participation in the Underground Railroad and the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue of 1858. Celebrating the award, Senator Sherrod Brown said, “The Wilson Bruce Evans Home Historical Society is working to assure that the part Mr. Evans and his family played in standing up to the injustices and horrors of enslavement is not forgotten,” adding that the “Save America’s Treasures” grant “will aid in the restoration of this historic home and Allow Mr. Evans’ story to continue to be told.” Dr. Doris Hughes-Moore, Evans HHS President and great-great granddaughter of Wilson Bruce Evans, said she was “over the moon with joy.” Evans HHS Manager Carol Lasser remarked that “the Society has long known that the house is an American treasure; we are delighted to have it officially recognized as such by the National Park Service.”
Saturday’s enthusiastic crowd braved unseasonably cold weather to pose for photos with the sign—and a life size cutout of Wilson Bruce Evans himself.
Historic Preservations Partnerships offers “kudos” to the Wilson Bruce Evans House
In its Fall 2022 issue, Exceptional Places, a newsletter of the Historic Preservation Partnerships of the National Park Service, highlights the Wilson Bruce Evans House as one of four National Historic Landmark achievements in the Midwest region. The Evans House will also be featured in an Explore Brochure to be published in the near future for distribution throughout northeast Ohio.
Wilson Bruce Evans Home Historical Society Awarded Save America Treasures Grant by National Park Service
The Wilson Bruce Evans House at 33 East Vine Street in Oberlin, Ohio, a rare, surviving example of a residence built and occupied a Black abolitionist and Underground Railroad operative, has just received $283,250 from the National Park Service’s “Save America’s Treasures” program toward its rehabilitation as a museum and educational center open to the public. Among the 80 projects funded this year, the Evans House is the only Ohio site to be funded.
Wilson Bruce Evans Home Historical Society Awarded Network to Freedom Grant
The Wilson Bruce Evans Home Historical Society is proud to announce that we have been awarded a Network to Freedom Grant! These grants, funded by the 400 Years of African American History Commission and administered by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, will help preserve Underground Railroad history across the country. To learn more, check out this news release: https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1207/ntf-grant-awards-2022.htm
Oberlin Awarded $30,000 State Historic Preservation Grant
for Restored Entry to Historic Wilson Bruce Evans House
Director of the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office Amanda Terrell has announced an award to the City of Oberlin for $30,000 to assist in the restoration of a Civil War-era entry at the Wilson Bruce Evans House, a National Historic Landmark home built in 1854-56 by a freeborn Black cabinetmaker, abolitionist, and Oberlin-Wellington Rescuer. The Wilson Bruce Evans Home Historical Society (Evans HHS) will work in partnership with the grant’s fiscal sponsor, Oberlin Heritage Center (OHC), to complete this stage in the larger restoration project that will, in the end, allow the Evans House to open to the public as a museum and educational center telling the story of the Evans family, their descendants, and the struggle for racial justice in Oberlin and in the United States.
The Evans House at 33 East Vine Street is one of very few in the nation that can claim to have been built and occupied by a verified Underground Railroad agent. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places, in 1997 it received designation as a National Historic Landmark, the highest level of recognition for significance. Wilson Bruce Evans Home Historical Society Property Manager Carol Lasser “is thrilled to move forward in this very special partnership. It does indeed take a village to lovingly preserve this national treasure. And with this help, we will be able to tell a nationally—and internationally—significant story about free African Americans who led the fight for racial justice, people who were in the front lines of the struggle for emancipation in the years leading up to the Civil War.”
OHC Director Liz Schultz commented: “Our organization is honored to be a part of this initiative to preserve the Evans home. Many people feel more deeply connected to the past when they are standing in a historic place, so to eventually have this landmark building open to community members and visitors will make the Evans family history and those of other Black residents of Oberlin that much more powerful.”
City of Oberlin Planning Director Carrie Porter said: “The City of Oberlin is rich in African American history; restoring the Evans House will add another important reason to make Oberlin a Black History destination.”
The City of Oberlin is a Certified Local Government Community, making it eligible to apply for historic preservation grants. Previous grants have included funding for restoration at historic First Church in Oberlin. The Ohio Historic Preservation Office is Ohio’s official historic preservation agency. A part of the Ohio History Connection, it identifies historic places in Ohio, nominates eligible properties to the National register of Historic Places, reviews federally assisted projects for effects on historic, architectural, and archeological resources in Ohio, consults on conversion of buildings and sites, and offers educational programs and publications.
On Saturday, June 18th, 2022, The Wilson Bruce Evans Home Historical Society will participate in Oberlin’s Annual Juneteenth Celebration at the Underground Railroad Center-Station Square-behind McDonalds on South Main Street.
Visit the Evans Home Historical Society booth and take your photo with the man himself, African American abolitionist and Oberlin-Wellington Rescuer, Wilson Bruce Evans. At 1:00 pm and again at 3:00 pm at the Evans Home Historical Society booth, you will have the opportunity to enjoy a first-person portrayal of Evans’s wife, Sarah Jane Leary Evans, the woman that held it all down and kept the home fires burning in her support of freedom.
Hear the latest news on the restoration of the Wilson Bruce Evans Home! Juneteenth in Oberlin! History to celebrate!
On February 24, 2022, the History Across the Humanities (HATH) conference at Youngstown State University hosted a session about the founding and mission of the Wilson Bruce Evans Home Historical Society as part of the “History Happened Here” series organized by Dr. Amy Fluker. Evans HHS Trustees Phyllis Yarber Hogan and Gary Kornblith and Evans HHS manager Carol Lasser participated in a panel discussion, followed by Q&A involving audience members online as well as in person. Thanks to Dr. Fluker, the session was recorded and can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gl5_RAyL2M4.
On November 5, 2021, the Wilson Bruce Evans Home was featured on “Applause,” a program about culture and the arts that airs in the Cleveland area on WVIZ, Ideastream Public Media. The segment features interviews with Evans HHS trustee Phyllis Yarber Hogan and Evans HHS manager Carol Lasser as well as images of Wilson Bruce Evans and the home itself. The segment can be viewed on YouTube at https://youtu.be/w-VOcn22UyI.
The Wilson Bruce Evans Home Historical Society held its first annual meeting in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in Oberlin, Ohio (across East Vine Street from the Wilson Bruce Evans house) on Saturday, September 18, 2021. Over 70 people attended. For coverage of the event, see Laina Yost, “Descendants Celebrate First Meeting of Wilson Bruce Evans Home Historical Society,” Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, posted online Sept. 18, 2021, and published in print Sept. 19,2021.
For recent press coverage of other developments at Evans HHS, see the article by Bianca Ramsey on cleveland.com, posted Aug. 18, 2021 and the article by Jason Hawk in the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram on Sept. 2, 2021.