by Maximilian Eyle
If you drive down James St. in Syracuse, you will come across a gorgeous piece of local history – the Barnes Hiscock Mansion. The house was built in 1853 by George and Rebecca Barnes and served as a part of the Underground Railroad. Both George and Rebecca were passionate abolitionists and used their wealth and resources to help fight against slavery and help escaped slaves. The Mansion, which has been beautifully preserved, is now serving as a venue for Syracuse’s Argentine Tango community. Each month, a public milonga (social dance) will be hosted there.
The Mansion is currently maintained and owned by the George & Rebecca Barnes Foundation which was started in 2005 to preserve the house and its history. Despite being over 150 years old, it is in beautiful condition and stands as a reminder to Syracuse’s proud history as a center of the abolitionist movement. George and Rebecca Barnes fought hard against the Fugitive Slave Act, and even posted bail for those arrested during the famous Jerry Rescue of 1851. While preserving the history of the Mansion remains the primary purpose of the George & Rebecca Barnes Foundation, they have decided to allow part of the space to be used to support the local Argentine tango community.
Argentine tango also has a long history in Syracuse. It brings together an eclectic mix of dancers of varying ages, abilities, and backgrounds and even attracts dancers from Ithaca, Rochester, Buffalo, and other cities in New York State. They host a weekly práctica on Wednesday nights at the Sky Barn on the Syracuse University Campus, as well as their milonga which happens on the second Saturday of each month at the Barnes Hiscock Mansion.
It is exciting to see Syracuse’s local institutions supporting one another and joining together to encourage the appreciation of art and history in our community. The inclusion of tango into the legacy of the Mansion only adds to its diverse history, while also serving to educate dancers about that part of Syracuse history. For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/SyracuseTango/ or www.grbarnes.org
Maximilian Eyle is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He works as a media consultant and writes each month about a variety of issues for Spanish-language papers across New York State. Maximilian has a love of Hispanic culture and learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.