African American Center opens in Olean

OLEAN — State Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the grand opening of the African American Center for Cultural Development in Olean on Wednesday.

The renovation of a historic house at 214 N. Barry St. provided a permanent home for the non-for-profit as part of the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The organization’s mission is to value, promote and integrate the rich and diverse Black history and culture of Western New York and the Southern Tier Region of New York State through the celebration of the talents, lives, and history of the African Americans in the region.

“The completion of this Center adds another important institution to our roster of landmarks that teach, preserve, and celebrate Black history in New York,” Hochul said. “Thanks to the state’s support, the African American Center for Cultural Development is opening its doors in Olean under the strong leadership of Della Moore and will help to share the stories of Black New Yorkers’ contributions to this region and to our state with residents and visitors for years to come.”

Founded in 2010, by activist and community leader Della Moore, the African American Center for Cultural Development has evolved from the common dream of five individuals to promote the history of African Americans in Olean and the Western New York and Southern Tier regions. In 2022, after years of being housed in temporary quarters, a local business donated a two-story, 2,850 square-foot house that was built in 1891 to be used as a permanent home for the center.

“I am beyond excited that God has led us this far. Thanks to all our supporters for your sweat, time, and funds,” Moore said. “We could not have reached this exciting day without help from everyone who pitched in and got involved. This African American Center belongs to all of us. So far, we have been able to finish and open the first floor. I know you all will be proud. God bless you all.”

The restoration of the building included the addition of a new HVAC system, a new elevator, installation of a new commercial kitchen and installation of a new bathroom. Modifications to the building were also undertaken to make it handicap accessible, with all surfaces newly painted, new floors installed, and new museum exhibits purchased and installed.

Through photographs, displays, books and the spoken memories of the people who grew up in and around the area, the center strives to tell the story of the past, while also preserving the heritage for future generations. Visitors will enjoy a wealth of culture at the center with built-in capacity for several computer stations, a movie screen, and sound systems to accommodate meetings, shows, educational presentations, and various organizational events. The center also houses a museum of African American culture at the new location.

The City of Olean was named a Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) round 2 winner in August 2017. The African American Center Project received $225,000 from the DRI, as well as many gifts from supportive donors.

The center’s opening builds upon and extends the work of the 400 Years of African American History Commission, launched by Hochul in 2022 to amplify and celebrate the wide-ranging contributions, achievement and contributions of African American and Black New Yorkers.

“The grand opening of the African American Center for Cultural Development is truly a cause for celebration,” said state Sen. George Borrello of Sunset Bay. “This moment represents the culmination of a vision pursued with passion and dedication by founder Della Moore and the establishment of an educational resource that will ensure the contributions of African Americans in the region are known and celebrated for generations to come. The DRI funding that helped make this possible, as well as numerous private donations, are a reflection of the wide support and enthusiasm that have accompanied the development of this project. My sincerest thanks go out to the partners at Empire State Development, the City of Olean, and all the individuals and businesses who made this achievement possible. I look forward to more successes in the years ahead.”


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