Riley House Donor and Membership Reception Kicked Off Smokey Hollow Reunion Weekend 2015
By Travis Milton
On Sept. 24, the John G. Riley Center/Museum celebrated its annual donor and membership reception launching the Smokey Hollow Reunion Weekend 2015.
This reception not only celebrated the many donors and members of the John G. Riley House Center/ Museum, but these many community members were able to gather together to remember the life and the legacy that Mr. John G. Riley left in the Tallahassee and Smokey Hollow community, as he would’ve turned 158 years old.
“All of the people here are somewhat a summary of who Mr. Riley was as a person and all of the characteristics that he possessed,” says John G. Riley House Museum Docent Johnathan Sancho. “He was a pillar in the Tallahassee community.”
The membership reception was very warm and welcoming as the many community supporters in attendance were able to enjoy one another’s company by catching up with conversation, enjoying various hors d’oeuvres, listening to live jazz music and sipping fine wines and champagnes.
Of the many community members and donors in attendance was Leon County Commission Chairwoman Mary Ann Lindley.
“The Riley House is such a wonderful centerpiece of the community,” Lindley, who is both a board member and donor of the Riley House Center/ Museum, said. “It reminds us of our history and our common humanity.”
The celebration pressed on as the unveiling of the new publication titled “More than Just a Place – Part II of the Smokey Hollow Story” by Althemese Barnes and Julianne Hare was debuted.
“Tonight was the culmination of a lot of long hard work,” says Juliannae Hare, who is a freelance writer and the owner of her own media production company called Rabbit’s Den Productions.
This publication is the sequel to their first novel titled “Times Remembered: Legacy of the Smokey Hollow Community.”
“More than Just a Place – Part II of the Smokey Hollow Story” is a book highlighting the historical architectural landscape survey and vivid reflections of former residents who called Smokey Hollow home.
Smokey Hollow was once a community in the Tallahassee area, filled with a tight knit of thriving working-middle class African-American people that has now become extinct.
Tallahassee’s Cascades Park and the Florida Department of Transportation, as well as various buildings in the adjacent vicinity, are the former home grounds and land in which Smokey Hollow used to exist.
The only remaining artifact of the Smokey Hollow community is the home of John G. Riley (John G. Riley House Center/ Museum).
Along the process of writing the first publication came a Historical Architectural Landscape Survey (HALS) about the story of Smokey Hollow, which is placed in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
“Some people may not make it to Washington to read about Smokey Hollow, so we said why don’t we make a sequel,” says co-author Althemese Barnes, who is the founder of the John G. Riley House Center/ Museum and a Tallahassee native.
Barnes and Hare made sure to include the HALS as well as information provided from members of the Smokey Hollow community who were not included in their initial publication.
“We decided to name it more than a place because there’s a lot of talk about place-making. We wanted to make it known that Smokey Hollow was more than a place. It was life; it was survival; it was struggle; it was triumph,” Barnes adds.
As the night progressed, all in attendance sung and wished Mr. John G. Riley a happy birthday as they enjoyed birthday cake and laughs as board members, supporters and former Smokey Hollow residents enjoyed what was a remarkable night and remembrance of a special man and a special community in the Tallahassee area.
The Spirit of the Smokey Hollow community was definitely present here today,” says John G. Riley House Center/ Museum Executive Director Marion McGee. “Today was meaningful and a time for remembrance and it revived the community.”
For more information on the John G. Riley House Center/ Museum and the Smokey Hollow community and to find out how you can become a member or donor: visit RileyMuseum.org .