Go on a Walking Tour of African American History in Olean, NY.
The following walking tour was created by Della Moore of the African American Center for Cultural Development.
This walking tour is designed to be a self-guided tour or a group guided one.
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Available to Download & Print
A PDF of the walking tour is available at the bottom of this page. It prints on standard letter paper (8.5"x11").
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Visit our Literature Request page and check the box for this walking tour brochure.
Start the tour
Start you tour by parking at the Park Centre Development parking lot.
This walking tour is just over two miles long. On the group tours, the guide will present some history of each site. Please note that this is a tour only and that the visitor should respect the privacy of the present owners.
Group tours may be treated (schedule permitting) to a personal tour of one of the most interesting houses in Olean, the Bartlett House; and may be treated to an old fashion Victorian Tea at the end of the tour.
For group guided tours, please contact Della Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on cost, dates and arrangements.
This tour will take us through a small section of Olean’s African American history; it will touch on the underground railroad as well as places and people who have played a huge part in the growth of our fair city by being role models and citizens the whole area can be proud of.
The tour begins at Laurens and North Union Streets (Route 16) where runaway slave, Sarah Johnson, was first ‘discovered’ circa 1833.
Then we head up to the Olean House, also on Route 16 about a block down North Union Street. The Olean House was the former Martin’s Hotel which was a ‘station’ thus helping runaway slaves on their journey to freedom.
A few blocks south on Route 16, we come to South Union and Greene Streets and find the former Russell’s Inn where bounty hunters went to drink or eat or rest when they were refused service at Martin’s Hotel around the time of the tar and feather incident.
One block south of South Union and Greene, still on Route 16, we come to the South Union Street Bridge where you can view the Allegheny River where Sarah Johnson traveled on the last leg of her trip to freedom in Olean. The Allegheny River, itself, has an interesting history.
We cross the bridge and one block south, still on Route 16, we find the Mount View Cemetery, where there are the gravesites of two United States Colored Troops soldiers.
In highlighting some of Olean’s black history, we retrace our steps out of Mount View Cemetery, back over the South Union Street Bridge, back to the corner of South Union and Greene Streets, walk west on Green street. Here we will find the house of Kathryn Kenny, who for many, many years was the only African American teacher in Olean. Her house is 116 West Green Street.
Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
Two blocks west on Green Street at number 402, this was the first African Methodist Episcopal church in Olean and has an interesting history.
Sarah Johnson's House
Then we travel one block north to Irving Street, then two blocks west to come to Sarah Johnson’s former house at 607 Irving. ‘Aunt’ Sarah Johnson found a friend and benefactor in Dr. Andrew Mead who taught her midwifery and she became a beloved member of the Olean community.
Oak Hill Park
We go back to 5th and Irving and head north for 3 blocks (across Henley; across West State Street) and up to Oak Hill Park where runaways hid while awaiting to be transported to the next ‘station’.
Olean Historical Preservation Society & Museum
In the middle of the park, which is in the historical section of Olean, we turn right and exit on Laurens and North 4th streets; walk two blocks east and come to the end of our tour at the Fanny Bartlett House, Olean’s Historical Museum, and the Olean Point Museum.
If we go on a group tour, Dave Deckman, the director of the Bartlett House, will (schedule permitting) take the group on a tour of that most interesting building. We may even have a Bartlett House old fashion Victorian Tea at the end of our tour.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about this aspect of Olean’s History.
Contact us for more information
For more on African American History in Cattaraugus County visit the African American Center for Cultural Development online at AfricanAmericanCenterForCulturalDevelopment.org