PORTLAND, Maine - A 179-year-old building in one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, boarded up and neglected for years, is being recognized as Maine's first site in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
A National Park Service official was in Portland Friday to recognize the Abyssinian Meeting House.
"It's a significant site because so many people were involved," said Sheri Jackson, Northeast regional manager for the park service's Network to Freedom. "Portland was one of those cities that was a gateway to the North. We cannot tell the story without including Maine."
Runaway slaves were concealed, supplied, and transported from the timber-frame Abyssinian hall, which dates to 1828. It is the nation's third-oldest church building established by a black congregation, after churches in Boston and Nantucket.
The park service has included 328 sites in 31 states in the Network to Freedom to help tell the story of the Underground Railroad, said Jackson.
The Committee to Restore the Abyssinian has been working for a decade to complete a $3 million restoration of the building. The Abyssinian is open by appointment for tours and will be open to the public regularly in February, which is Black History Month, said Leonard Cummings Sr., the restoration committee chairman.
The committee has received more than $160,000 in grants and donations.