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Thankful for Greenwich House

On Thanksgiving Day, 1902, Greenwich House opened its doors at 26 Jones Street. Founded by Mary K. Simkhovitch, this settlement house would soon become a pillar of social and cultural enrichment in Greenwich Village. Greenwich House offered its service to thousands of immigrants in the following years. Today we’re reflecting on the history of the house and its impact on our community.

Left to Right: Greenwich House, 1930s NYPL / Young Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch, Greenwich House Collection

At the time of Greenwich House’s founding, Greenwich Village was one of many neighborhoods in New York awash with immigrants and others trying to cope with a lack of adequate and healthy affordable housing, the need for access to a good education and cultural enrichment, rampant public health challenges, and simply trying to adjust to life in a new country. Jacob Riis, an early supporter of Greenwich House, is well-known for documenting the hazardous living spaces of immigrants in the Greenwich Village and surrounding neighborhoods.

Jacob August Riis, 1888

Riis wasn’t the only prominent supporter of Greenwich House. Other notable figures of social reform who were also supporters included Carl Schurz and Felix Adler. In 1917, Greenwich House also received immense help from Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. She was responsible for funding the development of their 27 Barrow Street facilities, which remains their headquarters to this day. Following construction of this new center, Greenwich House had the space to expand educational programs, many of which still thrive today.

Two of the many noteworthy people to have lived and learned at Greenwich House are Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, and Frances Perkins, the first female cabinet member in the United States and a great reformer for workers, women, and children.

These are just some of the “firsts” associated with Greenwich House. In addition to educational programs, Greenwich House is known for growing with the neighborhood as different needs arose for the community. Opening the first official daycare in 1920, Greenwich House provided care for the children of working mothers — an identity gaining traction following the final passing of the Nineteenth Amendment on August 26th of that year. Following daycare, the house founded after-school programs in 1942. In the years following, the programs continued to develop, including the Child Safety Project, created in 1987 following the case of Lisa Steinberg.

“Childcare Begins at Greenwich House”, 1919, Greenwich House Collection

The work at Greenwich House continued through the decades, including the establishment of Senior Housing and the AIDS Mental Health Project. Today, Greenwich House continues to evolve with the community, supporting a communal space of warmth and welcome, two elements necessary in an increasingly distant world. Learn more about their work by visiting their site, and read more about them here

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