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John Brown Farm State Historic Site facts for kids

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John Brown Farm State Historic Site
John Brown's grave - 1896 S R Stoddard.jpg
John Brown's grave, 1896, S R Stoddard.
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Nearest city Lake Placid, New York
Area 270 acres (110 ha)
Built 1849
NRHP reference No. 72000840
Quick facts for kids
Significant dates
Added to NRHP June 19, 1972
Designated NHL August 6, 1998

The John Brown Farm State Historic Site includes the home and final resting place of abolitionist John Brown (1800–1859). It is located on John Brown Road in the town of North Elba, near Lake Placid, New York, where John Brown moved in 1849 to teach farming to freed slaves. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1998. It has been managed by the state since 1896; the grounds are open to the public on a year-round basis, and tours of the house are offered in the warmer months.

The humble farm of Brown is situated on an elevated and broad plateau, embosomed in the giant arms of the Adirondacs, No district of the State is more impressive by the grandeur of its physical features, or its exquisite natural beauties.

Description and history

The John Brown Farm is located south of the village of Lake Placid, near Lake Placid Airport, on John Brown Road (New York State Route 910M). (North Elba is not a village but a township or section of a county, which New York State calls towns.) The property is 270 acres (110 ha) in size, of which the northern third houses the developed part of the site, with the balance in now reforested hills. The developed area includes John Brown's farmhouse and barn, as well as a caretaker's house and other infrastructure for visitors. The family graveyard is also part of the site, encircled by an iron fence. A statue of John Brown, placed in 1935, stands nearby. The house is a 2+12-story timber-framed structure, with a gable roof and clapboarded exterior. Its front is four bays wide, with the entrance in the left center bay, topped by a transom window. Most of the finishes, both interior and exterior, are restorations performed in the second half of the 20th century to bring about a c. 1860 appearance.

John Brown arrived in upstate New York in 1848, as part of a project funded by Gerrit Smith to assist freed slaves in the learning to become self-sufficient farmers. (See Timbuctoo, New York.) Pursuant to that end, he and his sons purchased this land in 1850. In 1855, Brown moved to Kansas to support his sons' efforts to keep Kansas as a free-state under the popular sovereignty laws, leaving his wife and several of his children behind. Brown returned to visit his family at Lake Placid several times. In 1859, Brown attempted to start a liberation movement among enslaved African Americans by seizing the arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). For this, he was tried for treason against the State of Virginia and hanged. The family sold the property (except for the graveyard) in 1863; the Browns moved to Ohio and California.

In 1870 it was purchased by journalist Kate Field, who formed an association to oversee its preservation and make it accessible to visitors. It was acquired by the state in 1896.

In 2017, the State University of New York at Potsdam held an archeology field school at the site, searching for artifacts linked to Brown.


There were three burials on the John Brown Farm:

  1. John Brown himself, buried in 1859, immediately after his execution.
  2. Watson Brown, one of John Brown's sons, died 1859, buried in 1882.
  3. In a single coffin, since the condition of the remains did not permit better identification, the remains of 10 of the raiders, including son Oliver Brown, died or executed 1859–60, buried in 1899.

A cenotaph on the grave of John Brown was originally erected and inscribed for his father, Capt. John Brown, who died September 5, 1776, while serving in the Continental Army, and originally sat at the elder Brown's gravesite in Connecticut until 1831, when it was replaced with a larger tombstone and moved to the younger Brown's farm in New York. The younger Brown had an inscription written for his son Frederick after Frederick was killed by pro-slavery forces at the Pottawatomie massacre in 1856 and buried in Kansas, and then directed before his hanging that the names and epitaphs of his sons Oliver and Watson be inscribed alongside his own on the cenotaph.


Timbuctoo exhibit and Blues at Timbuctoo

In 2016 the John Brown Farm State Historic Site became the permanent home of the “Dreaming of Timbuctoo” exhibition.

An annual Blues at Timbuctoo festival is held at the John Brown Farm. It is presented by Jerry Dugger, and by the organization John Brown Lives! Friends of Freedom The festival is a combination of blues music and conversation around race relations. The festival was launched in 2015. Martha Swan is the current executive director of John Brown Lives!

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