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A tailor from Orange County, New York, Seymour Finney moved to Detroit in 1834. Finney opened his own business, the Finney Hotel, in 1850 [1; 4]. The hotel's brick barn quickly became an important station of the Underground Railroad as Finney, his son Seymour, Jr., and other anti-slavery citizens of Michigan helped former slaves escape via the Detroit River to Canada [1; 3]. The location of Finney's Barn, at the northern end of Michigan's Underground Railroad routes, near the river, made it a station of vital importance [2]. Unfortunately, the barn was razed in 1892 to make way for the Detroit Chamber of Commerce building, which now bears a 1926 plaque designating the site as Detroit's Underground Railway Station [2].


  • The Finney Barn (image from Clarke Historical Library)
  • The Finney Hotel (image from Genealogy Trails)
  • Historic marker for the barn (image from Historical Marker Database)
  • Detroit Underground Railway Station historic marker (image from Historical Marker Database)
  • Both markers are within Capitol Park in downtown Detroit (image from Detroit News)
  • Finney Barn in the foreground (image from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library)

A tailor from Orange County, New York, Seymour Finney moved to Detroit in 1834. Working his way up from clerk to manager of the Franklin House, Finney opened his own business, the Finney Hotel, in 1850 [1; 4]. The hotel's brick barn quickly became an important station of the Underground Railroad as Finney, his son Seymour, Jr., and other anti-slavery citizens of Michigan helped former slaves escape via the Detroit River to Canada [1; 3]. Among Finney's Detroit abolitionist allies were Alanson Sheley, Augustus Buhl, Jacob Howard, Zachariah Chandler, Charles C. Foote, and African American William Lambert [1]. The location of Finney's Barn, at the northern end of Michigan's Underground Railroad routes, near the river, made it a station of vital importance—and one of hope, since any escaped slave who made it as far as the barn was relatively safe [2; 4]. Once in the barn, refugees hid in the hayloft or in false-bottomed wagons until nightfall, when they were transported to and across the river. Finney retired from his hotel business in 1864 and began lecturing for racial equality, and the barn quickly made it into the history books as a key Underground Railroad station [2].

Unfortunately, the barn was razed in 1892 to make way for the Detroit Chamber of Commerce building, which now bears the 1926 plaque designating the site as Detroit's Underground Railway Station (inscription below) [2].

 

Historic Marker Inscriptions:

Finney Barn

Seymour Finney conducted one of the principal passenger depots of the underground railroad in the Detroit area. Finney, a tailor by trade, later became a hotel-keeper, and it was in this capacity that he assisted fugitive slaves in the era prior to 1861. In 1850 he purchased a site where in later years stood the Finney Hotel, and also erected a large barn which he operated along with his tavern. Strongly sympathetic to the abolitionist cause, Finney employed every means to assist escaping slaves across the river into Canada. Detroit was one of the most important "stations" en route to Canada; if a fugitive reached this city, he was comparatively safe. Finney Barn served as a hiding-place for runaways until they could reach the river bank and freedom. / Erected 1980 by Michigan History Division-Department of State. (Marker Number S0069.) [4]

 

Detroit's Underground Railway Station

This tablet marks the site of Detroit's "Underground Railway Station" / A large brick building known as "The Finney House Barn," was located here and used as a depot for helping slaves gain freedom into Canada from 1833 until the Civil War. Detroit was one of the important "stations," on the route to Canada and the Anti-Slavery Society organized in 1837, aided in the liberation of thousands of slaves. / Erected 1926 [3].

1. Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. "Seymour Finney Hotel and Barn." Accessed July 27, 2016. http://ugrr.thewright.org/media/Pdf/Seymour_Finney_Hotel_and_Barn_3.pdf. 2. National Park Service. "Finney Barn Site." Accessed July 27, 2016. https://www.nps.gov/subjects/ugrr/ntf_member/ntf_member_details.htm?SPFID=4756675&SPFTerritory=NULL&SPFType=NULL&SPFKeywords=NULL. 3. S., Joel. "Detroit's Underground Railroad." Historical Marker Database. December 16, 2015. Accessed July 25, 2016. http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=91616. 4. Wintermantel, Mike. "Finney Barn." Historical Marker Database. March 27, 2011. Accessed July 25, 2016. http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=41190.