Tallahassee in Leon County, Florida — The American South (South Atlantic)
John Gilmore Riley House
John Gilmore Riley was born in 1857, the son of Sarah and James Riley. He was not formally educated, but was instructed by his Aunt Henrietta. Riley became principal of Lincoln Academy, Tallahassee’s first local high school for African Americans in 1893 and served until retiring in 1926. He was a life-long member of St. James CME Church and Grand High Priest of the Royal Arch Masons of Florida. He owned a significant amount of property in Tallahassee near the Capitol Center. Riley died in 1954, the same year that the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision was rendered. Records indicate that the site on which the Riley House sits was sold to John Gilmore Riley by Aaron Levy on August 17, 1885 for $125. The two-story wood fame house was built in 1890. It was the home for the Riley family until 1973 when they sold it to the City of Tallahassee. The house was placed on t he National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and was restored with joint funding from the City of Tallahassee and the Department of the Interior. In 1982 the Florida NAACP partnered with the Riley Foundation to purchase the house.
Erected 1998 by the John G. Riley Foundation and the Florida Department of State Sandra B. Mortham, Secretary of State. (Marker Number F-378.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Education • Fraternal or Sororal Organizations • Notable Buildings. In addition, it is included in the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1857.
Location. 30° 26.373′ N, 84° 16.645′ W. Marker is in Tallahassee, Florida, in Leon County. Marker is at the intersection of East Jefferson Street and South Meridian Street, on the right when traveling east on East Jefferson Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 419 East Jefferson Street, Tallahassee FL 32301, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Leon County (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Union Bank of Florida (approx. 0.2 miles away); Lewis Bank (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Knott House (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Exchange Bank Building (approx. 0.2 miles away); Florida Sri Chinmoy Peace State (approx. 0.2 miles away); Florida Liberty Bell Replica (approx. 0.2 miles away); Old Capitol of Florida (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Tallahassee.
Also see . . . John Gilmore Riley House. Wikipedia entry (Submitted on December 24, 2021, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.)
1. The John G. Riley House Museum
The following is the text of the panels shown in photo #3
The Riley House Museum
Constructed in 1890, the Riley House is the last physical evidence of a thriving middle-class African American community that existed downtown at the turn of the 20th century.
The Riley House is the second house in Florida owned by an African American person to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1995, a group of Tallahassee citizens established a museum at the Riley House dedicated to African American history and culture.
The John G. Riley Foundation, Inc.
The mission of the foundation and museum is to preserve the historic John G. Riley House and the cultural and educational history of African Americans in Tallahassee and the state of Florida from the Reconstruction Era through the civil rights movement.
Through research, exhibits, educational productions and publications, conferences, workshops, and an oral history component, the significance of African American history as a vital part of America’s
John G. Riley
Who was John Gilmore Riley?
John Gilmore Riley was born to James and Sarah Wells Riley in 1857. Sarah was a slave and, by law, her son inherited her status. Florida law denied slaves the right to read and write, but John’s Virginia-born Aunt Henrietta secretly taught him these skills. After emancipation, he took advantage of every opportunity to increase his academic competence. Riley accepted his first teaching job when he was 20. In 1893 he was named Principal of the Lincoln School for Coloreds – Tallahassee’s first high school for persons of color.
Riley also became an accomplished businessman. He acquired a substantial number of rental properties, but never forgot what it was like to be poor. He established the Christmas Basket Committee to provide holiday food and gifts to the needy. He also served as a Trustee for the St. James C.M.E. Church and contributed substantial sums in his support. Riley was a 32nd degree Mason and was elected Grand High Priest in 1908. He was also a leader in the early days of the civil rights movement, and served as Secretary for the local chapter of the NAACP. He fought for equal pay for black teachers and was instrumental in establishing Leon County’s first interracial council for businessmen. John Gilmore Riley lived in the age of 96 – a noble witness to some of the most pivotal events in America’s development.
Help Support the Riley House
The John G. Riley House Museum and Foundation are currently accepting donations to help establish an endowment fund to provide a perpetual source of funds to maintain and preserve the Riley property and to sustain its programs. Donations are tax deductible.
— Submitted September 2, 2017, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.
Credits. This page was last revised on December 24, 2021. It was originally submitted on December 10, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 735 times since then and 220 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on December 10, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.