Neighborhood Portrait Quilt

The Neighborhood Portrait Quilt is part of a permanent exhibition that tells a story of important leaders and residents.

Neighborhood portrait

The Arts Council of Princeton’s Paul Robeson Center is fortunate to be located within the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, an African-American community rich in historical significance vital to the fabric of the town. Neighborhood Portrait is a permanent exhibition that tells a story of important leaders and residents, like Paul Robeson, and key institutions that have made this neighborhood a vibrant part of Princeton’s cultural life. Utilizing materials drawn from the collection of Historical Society of Princeton, the exhibition includes documents and photographs that illustrate the history of the building site where the Paul Robeson Center is situated. These formal and informal snapshots help narrate the history of racial segregation and the eventual social integration of Princeton’s residents, and even more so, the cultural strivings of Princeton’s African-American residents to create and build a deep and full community.

On Sunday, September 11, 2005, at 1:00 pm, in the loft studio of the Paul Robeson Building, the Arts Council unveiled the centerpiece of the future building’s permanent exhibit of the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood—an original, hand-crafted quilt created through the transfer of over ninety photographs that together illustrate the history of the neighborhood. The photographs were contributed, solicited, and selected by four neighborhood residents, who also chose the quilt material and determined the order of the images. They also collected on small squares that form the perimeter of the quilt: the signatures of many of the current residents of the John-Witherspoon.

The quilt was crafted by local quilter and educator Gail Mitchell. At the celebration, Ms. Mitchell spoke about the project and about the significance and intricacies of quilt making. The neighborhood residents involved in the creation of the quilt—Shirley Satterfield, Minnie Craig, Lois Craig, and Cynthia (Chip) Fisher—were also on hand to share with the audience their knowledge of the neighborhood and the historical context of the quilt. During the afternoon, long-time residents of the neighborhood who had not yet signed the quilt did so proudly. “This event is the culmination of years of planning and of an ongoing collaboration,” said board member Janet Stern, who, as the Arts Council’s program director, first suggested the idea of a quilt to the neighborhood’s residents. “The project brought together people who might not otherwise have crossed paths, and that is just one of the reasons why we are so excited about it. It was also a pleasure to watch the neighborhood volunteers become more and more enthused as the photos evoked memories and discussions about people, places, and events from the past,” added Ms. Stern. “We were so privileged just to be there and to listen in on these personal reflections on the remarkable history of the neighborhood in which the Arts Council is situated. And then to see that history portrayed through the esteemed art form of quilt making is gratifying beyond imagination.”

The quilt will be accompanied by captions that identify each photo. Following its unveiling at the Arts Council, the quilt joined the Preserving our Past exhibition at the Trenton City Museum at the Ellarslie Mansion. The quilt returned to Princeton to exhibit at the Arts Council’s conTEMPORARY Arts Center throughout the month of February in celebration of Black History Month and was a component in the Black Arts Extravaganza on February 26. The quilt traveled “on tour” to the neighborhood churches and other institutions before it took up its permanent residence in the Arts Council’s expanded facility.

Quilt Captions

1 Witherspoon Street in the early 1920s

2 Mt. Pisgah AME Church on Witherspoon Street

3 Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, founded in 1840

4 First Baptist Church, founded in 1885

5 Morning Star Church of God in Christ on Birch Avenue, 1941

6 Jackson Street houses

7 Children of Witherspoon School for Colored Children, 1904

8 Witherspoon School for Colored Children, incorporated in 1858

9 Annie

10 Diploma of a student at Witherspoon School, 1894

11 Betsy

12 Sarah Blackwell Harris, teacher at Witherspoon School

13 Witherspoon School for Colored Children on Quarry Street, 1908

14 Children

15 In 1948, the Princeton Plan integrated the public schools in Princeton Borough

16 Waxwood

17 Aerial view of Jackson Street, now Paul Robeson Place

18 The Masonic Temple on John Street, built in 1913

19 Joan Elizabeth Hill, Director of Princeton’s Civil Rights Commission

20 Alice May Satterfield, Princeton Housing Authority Commissioner

21 Houses that were moved in order to build Palmer Square

22 Palmer Square

23 The Elks Lodge on Birch Avenue

24 The Charcoal Inn on John Street, the social club for colored men

25 Charles Robinson American Legion Post No. 218 on Lytle Street

26 Macon’s Willow Inn on Rt. 1, Pleasant Macon, proprietor

27 (Far left) Imperial Restaurant, owned by Burnett Griggs. (Far right) Virginia Mills’s Beauty Salon, both on Witherspoon Street

28 Lillie Taylor’s beauty salon on Quarry Street

29 Birthplace of Dr. Henry Austin, later home of Robert Ball, owner of candy store on John Street

30 Allen’s Tavern on Witherspoon Street

31 Building on Leigh Avenue purchased in 1934 by Fred and Doris Burrell

32 Charles Robinson Post 218 American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps

33 Baker Street, before Palmer Square was built

34 Sgt. Theodore Lewis, Princeton Borough Police Force

35 Patrolman Walter Harris

36 Lambert

37 Chauffeur Gala

38 Jimmy Johnson

39 Paul Robeson, renowned scholar, athlete, actor, singer, and humanitarian

40 Paul Robeson and Christine Moore Howell,Spring Street

41 Three buildings on Spring Street owned by William Moore

42 Jimmy’s Barber Shop on John Street

43 Thomas A. Moore II, business and civic leader

44 Witherspoon YWCA Girls Club.

45 The “Colored YMCA.” The original building was replaced with the present building in 1938-39

46 Y-Wives

47 Banquet

48 Emma Epps, celebrated Princeton volunteer

49 Map of Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, Courtesy of Historical Society of Princeton

50 Dr. Simeon F. Moss, soldier in the Italian Campaign in World War II

51 Tombstone in Princeton Cemetery of Reverend William Drew and Maria Bustill Robeson, parents of Paul Robeson

52 House on the corner of Green and Witherspoon Streets where Paul Robeson was born in 1898

53 Memorial plaque for Paul Robeson, corner of Witherspoon Street and Paul Robeson Place

54 Entrance to the colored section of Princeton Cemetery

55 Henry Pannell, chief builder of Clay Street Learning Center, now the Henry Pannell Learning Center

56 Bryan Van Zandt Moore, Assistant Mercer County Prosecutor

57 George Reeves, Sr., gave 45 years service to the Princeton YMCA

58 Andrew Hatcher, Associate Press Secretary to President Kennedy

59 Albert Hinds, born in Princeton in 1902

60 Mrs. Josie Broadway

61 James A. Carter, Negro Baseball League

62 Phyliss and Robert Sinkler,athletic trainer at University

63 Robert Joseph Rivers, Jr., Surgeon

64 Susie Brown Waxwood, Executive Director of the YWCA

65 Christine Moore Howell,owner of a beauty shopon Spring Street

66 The Citizen, a weekly Negro newspaper

67 Kathleen (Kappy) Montgomery Edwards, community activist

68 Payton Rhodes, owner of a hauling business

69 The site on Clay Street of the ice plant owned by Andrew Teague and George Barclay in the 1930s to 1950s. Also site of Gordon Park, on property owned by Addison Gordon.

70 Rex Gorleigh

71 Bruce Wright, Justice on the New York State Supreme Court

72 James Floyd, Mayor of Princeton Township

73 Penelope Edwards-Carter, Municipal Clerk of Princeton Borough

74 Frederick M. Porter, Jr., Princeton Township’s first African- American police Chief

75 Cynthia (Chip) White Fisher, 1948

76 Shirley A. Satterfield, age 3, educator and historian

77 Mary Elizabeth Moore,educator and community leader

78 YMCA Football Squad, 1910

79 The Princeton Nursery School on Leigh Avenue, started in 1929


81 Minnie Lee Craig, first grade, community activist

82 Lois Craig, 1938, community activist

83 Princeton High School Football Team, 1946

84 African-American football team

85 Addie Louise Schenck, 1865-1927

86 Floyd Campbell, who served in the Army during World War II

87 Neighborhood young men

88 Mary Moss Playground on John and Lytle Streets

89 The Phantoms Baseball League, circa 1950s