Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York
 


East Side House Settlement: 1851 to 1991


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Children playing at an East Side House-sponsored camp, circa 1970. (Courtesy of the Rare Books and Manuscript Library, Columbia University)
 

Contact Information Restrictions  
History of the Institution Processing Status
Scope and Content Associated Collections and Other Research Material


Contact Information

East Side House Settlement
337 Alexander Avenue
Bronx, NY 10454
Phone: (718) 665-5250
Fax: (718) 585-1433
Website:
www.eastsidehouse.org

Location of Archives:

Columbia University
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Butler Library, 6th Floor East
535 W. 114th Street
New York, NY 10027
Phone: (212) 854-5153
Fax: (212) 854-1365
Website: www.columbia.edu/cu/web/indiv/rare

To access the records of East Side House, please contact the staff of Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library at (212) 854-5153 or rbml@libraries.cul.columbia.edu.

Other Individuals Familiar with the Collection:

John Sanchez, Executive Director of East Side House

Caroline Rivera, Administrative Assistant of East Side House

Hours Open to the Public
The Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Columbia University is open Monday from 12:00 – 4:45 p.m. and Tuesday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. No appointment is necessary, but please note that this collection is located offsite. Therefore, it is suggested contacting the archives staff prior to visit.

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History of the Institution

During the 1890s, millions of Irish, German, Italian, Russian, and Eastern European immigrants came to the United States seeking better employment opportunities and to escape political oppression. Many of these immigrants settled in Manhattan and lived in Old-Law tenements, which consisted of crowded families living in small apartment units with dark and dangerous staircases. Residents also often complained about poor light, ventilation, and plumbing.1  Due to the crowded and unsanitary living conditions, many residents in these buildings suffered from tuberculosis and a wide variety of other diseases. Crime rates were also very high in tenement districts and, since there were few playgrounds, children were often forced to play on the congested streets of Manhattan. Women and children often worked long hours with little pay in sweatshops, which were often housed in tenement units. Many of these sweatshops also had poor ventilation and light.2

In response to these problems, Everett P. Wheeler, with the support of the Church Club of the Episcopal Church, established East Side House Settlement in 1891. The SettlementHouse was located in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan in “an old country residence” on East 76th Street near the East River.3 At the time the Settlement was constructed, Yorkville was home of thousands of Hungarian, Polish, Czech, Italian, and Irish immigrants that lived in unventilated and dark tenement buildings.4 Modeled after Toynbee Hall in London and two previous settlement houses in New York City, the organization provided men’s and boy’s clubs; a safe and enclosed playground; a gymnasium; kindergarten classes; and daycare.5 In addition to these services, a piece of land along the East River was leased to the Settlement for the creation of a “swimmingpool.” Shortly after the Settlement was established, the New York Free Circulating Library Association donated 5,000 to East Side House for the creation of a library. In 1894, the Webster Free Library of East Side House was constructed.6 Eventually, in 1904, the library’s collection was donated to the New York Public Library and is currently located on York Avenue between 77th and 78th Street.7

Due to the success of the organization, the Settlement built a new and larger three-story brick building on the same site. After the building was completed in 1901, East Side House expanded their program to include a music school and day trips to nearby parks and beaches. During one summer, J.P. Morgan, a board member of East Side House, invited a group of children to camp outside his estate near Popolopen Creek.8 In 1910, the organization established a summer camp in Stepney, Connecticut, which provided many children for the first time to travel outside of Manhattan.

During the 1920s, real estate prices in Yorkville increased dramatically. As a result, many individuals who participated in East Side House’s programs relocated to other areas of New York City. Therefore, the Board of the organization believed that the Settlement House was no longer needed by the community, and, in 1929, sold the 76th Street building. With the exception of the nursery and summer camp, all services provided by organized were terminated for a year. However, due to the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the buyer’s payment for building defaulted and ownership of the property reverted back to the Settlement. In 1930, due to the massive unemployment of the Great Depression, the Settlement was, once again, needed in the community and re-established. Despite the need for the organization, services were reduced in comparison to previous years. From 1930 to 1937, Rosa Gregor and, her assistant, Kathleen Wegge, managed the Settlement House. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) also provided staff assistance during this difficult time for the Settlement.9

Faced with possible closure, the board of East Side House reorganized in 1937. A few years later, the board appointed a new executive director, Carleton R. Lindquist. Carleton Lindquist and his wife, Grace Lindquist, served as executive directors for the Settlement until 1967. In the 1940s, participants of the Settlement’s services increased and the Mayor’s Committee for the Wartime Care of Children provided additional funding for the daycare. In addition to funds received by the local city government, East Side House established the Winter Antiques Show in 1955 to help raise money for the organization. The show, which includes a wide variety of antiques from New York City dealers, continues to be a major fundraising event for the Settlement.

After World War II, luxury modern apartment buildings were being constructed in the Yorkville neighborhood. Old tenement buildings that once housed the many immigrant families were being torn down. Many individuals who participated in East Side House’s programs were moving to other neighborhoods in New York City. In 1961, after consulting various social agencies and the New York Housing Authority, the board voted to relocate the Settlement to the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx. By the early 1960s, Mott Haven, which used to be home of many Irish and German immigrants, largely consisted of African Americans and Puerto Ricans. The neighborhood also contained Patterson and Mill Brook Public Housing Projects, which East Side House believed could benefit from their services.

Prior to relocating to The Bronx, East Side House established the Mill Brook Community Center in 1961. Located in the Mill Brook Housing Project, the community center was Settlement’s first program located in The Bronx. In 1963, shortly after the administrative offices of the Settlement were relocated to a townhouse on Alexander Avenue in Mott Haven, the organization became the sponsor the Patterson Community Center, which was located in the Patterson Housing Project. Consisting mostly of African Americans and Puerto Ricans, Patterson Houses was one of the oldest public housing projects in The Bronx.10 A few years’ later, additional community centers were established in the newly constructed Mott Haven and Mitchel Housing Projects. These community centers provided sewing, cooking, and woodshop lessons. Many of the centers also contained large auditoriums, playgrounds, daycare, and programs for senior citizens.11 East Side House’s administrative offices also contain several large conference rooms and a landscaped backyard, which continues to be used by staff and members of the Mott Haven and Melrose community.

As the South Bronx rapidly declined in the 1970s and 1980s, East Side House continued to expand their services. By 1975, approximately 465 children attended preschool programs sponsored by the organization.12 The number of participants in after school activities and college assistance programs also increased dramatically. The Settlement also established the Telephone Reassurance Program, which provided daily communication to senior citizens and the physically ill. A Hot Meals Program also provided warm dinners to senior citizen residents of the Mott Haven and Melrose community. During the height of the crack epidemic of the 1980sand early 1990s, the Settlement also created several drug prevention and treatment programs. 13

Currently, the Settlement provides approximately fifteen programs to the residents of the Mott Haven community. The organization also continues to sponsor community centers at Mill Brook Patterson, Mott Haven, and Mitchell Housing Projects. In 2001, the Settlement established the Mott Haven Village Preparatory High School, which provides a strong cirectualim that prepares students for college and encourages community service.

Scope and Content

This collection is arranged into six series. For complete series descriptions, please review the finding aid for these records, which can be accessed at: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/libraries/indiv/rare/guides/East_Side_House/

Series 1: Everett P. Wheeler Papers (1851-1917)
Series 2: Administration (1890-1992)
Series 3: Board of Mangers (1890-1991)
Series 4: Resident Mangers, Headworkers, and Executive Directors (1902-1992)
Series 5: Programs and Services (1895-1991)
Series 6: Audio Visual Material (1908-1990)

Documents found in the collection include: correspondence, newsletters, press releases, memorandum, minutes of board meetings, newspaper clippings, brochures, articles of incorporation, reports, by-laws, and annual reports. The collection also contains records, which document alumni activities, anniversary and annual dinners, East Side House’s centennial celebration, and finances, Records regarding other institutions are also included in this collection. These re\cords include documents from The Bronx Council of the Arts, Museum of the City of New York United Neighborhood Houses, United Way, Mount Olivet Baptist Church, Philip Morris, and University Settlement, Records of Mill Brook, Paterson, Mott Haven, and Mitchel Public Housing projects are also located in this collection.

Please note that there are major gaps in the collection during the periods of 1902-1949 and 1950-1960 in the “Resident Director, Headwork, and Executive Director Series.” However, according to the finding aid for this collection, these time periods are well documents in other series. 

Overall holdings of archival collection:
18 linear feet

Overall holdings of archival material regarding African Americans in the Bronx:
Approximately 10 linear feet

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Restrictions

Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from the Director of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Columbia University. Records are available to faculty, students or serious researchers.

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Processing Status

This collection has been processed. A finding aid for this collection can be accessed at: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/libraries/indiv/rare/guides/East_Side_House/


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Associated Collections and Other Research Material

In 2007, Hostos Community in College also conducted a survey of the records of East Side House as part of the South Bronx History Project. The survey can be accessed at: www.hostos.cuny.edu/library/hcc/southbronxhistory.asp

The Bronx County Historical Society’s Oral History Collection of The Bronx African American History Project provides information regarding life in public housing, in particular Patterson Houses, during the 1950s and 1960s.

 

Survey conducted by Megan A. Hibbitts in 2007.

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1 Old Law tenements refer to apartment buildings that were constructed after the “Old Law” Tenement House Act in 1879. This law required that all new tenements must have a window in each room and an indoor toilet for every twenty residents. In 1901, the New York State Legislator passed the “New Law” Tenement Act. This new legislation required all buildings to be properly ventilated by airshafts, cold water sinks, and heating.

2 Peter Derrick, Tunneling to the Future: The Story of the Great Subway Expansion that Saved New York (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 90-122.

3 “East Side House – Its Founding and Development” (circa 1965); The Records of East Side House; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University. Yorkville is a neighborhood located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Its boundaries are 72nd Street to the south, the East River to the east, 96th Street to the north, and Third Avenue to the west.

4 Thomas Connors, 1891-1991: A Neighborhood Place (1991).

5 “East Side House – Its Founding and Development” (circa 1965); The Records of East Side House; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

6  Ibid.

7  Ibid.

8  Ibid.

9  “The Case of Patterson Community Center” (circa 1962); The Records of East Side House; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University.
10. “East Side House: The New Adventure, Annual Report (1963-1964); The Records of East Side House; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

10 “East Side House: The New Adventure, Annual Report (1963-1964); The Records of East Side House; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, ColumbiaUniversity.

11  “A Brief History of East Side House Settlement’s Development in the South Bronx (1975); The Records of East Side House; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

12  Ibid.

13 “Program Overview,” 2006.

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© 2007 Bronx African-American History Project at Fordham University

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