Pleasant Street to host benefit banquet
Work will resume soon on home restoration project
Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 2:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 2:21 p.m.
The annual Claronelle Smith Griffin Distinguished Speaker Series Banquet will continue to provide an afternoon of history, speakers, a silent auction, awards and mingling, while raising funds for a museum to house the history of blacks in Alachua County.
PLEASANT STREET BANQUET
* What: The 6th annual Claronelle Smith Griffin Distinguished Speaker Series Banquet.
* When: 3 p.m. March 23.
* Where: D.R. Williams Fellowship Hall, 618 NW 6th St.
* Tickets: $40.
* Information: Call 352-377-4217.
Sponsored by the Pleasant Street Historic Society, the banquet, now in its sixth year, will be held at 3 p.m. March 23 at the D.R. Williams Fellowship Hall at 418 NW 6th St. Tickets are $40 each and must be reserved in advance by calling 352-377-4217. The deadline to purchase tickets is March 18. They will not be sold at the door.
The proceeds will benefit the renovation of the Smith-Griffin House at 321 NW 8th Ave. Smith-Griffin, a retired educator who passed away in 2003, willed her house to the society. It was built in 1870 by her grandfather. The Pleasant Street Historic Society was founded in 1984 to preserve, promote and protect the Pleasant Street Historic District.
Melanie Barr, recording secretary of the historic society, said this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Pleasant Street Historic Society and the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gainesville during the Civil War (1861-1865).
"This is an important event that coincides with the 30th anniversary of the historic society," Barr said.
In keeping with the theme, she said the keynote speaker, Marvin-Alonzo Greer, an Atlanta resident and battle re-enactor, will speak about the 55th Massachusetts United States Colored Infantry and discuss the role of the U.S. Colored Troops in the Civil War.
Barr said Greer was selected because of the connection to the 55th Massachusetts shared with Matthew Lewey, who was a prominent resident of the Pleasant Street neighborhood in the 1880s. Lewey, a lawyer and editor of the Florida Sentinel, a black newspaper in Gainesville, also served in the 55th Massachusetts United States Colored Infantry.
Greer, a student at Morehouse College and the historical interpreter at the Atlanta History Center, had ancestors who also were members of the 55th Massachusetts United States Colored Infantry.
Barr said four Alachua County residents will be recognized in categories that reflected areas of interest to Smith-Griffin. They are:
* Gussie Lee: A children's advocate who serves as chairwoman of the Alachua County Foster Grandparent Program for her contribution to community service.
* Dr. Gladys Alexander: Retired educator from Alachua County Public Schools for her contribution to education.
* Janie Williams Hayes: A Porters neighborhood historian for her contribution to history.
* Rev. Dr. Freddie Hickmon: Founder and pastor of Miracle Temple Church in High Springs for his contributions to religion.
In addition, middle schools students who participated in the "Standing on the Shoulders: Because You Did I Can" essay contest will be recognized.
Thanks to a grant and donations from the community, the Pleasant Street Historic Society has raised $50,000 for the restoration project on the Smith-Griffin house, which means the group is closer to converting the house into a black history museum.
Barr said the funding came from a $25,000 matching grant from the Florida Department of State Division of Historical Resources and $25,000 from historic society members and friends. "We'll be looking to hire a contractor that specializes in historic preservation," said Barr, adding that the construction project is expected to begin in the spring and be completed in the summer.