Thursday, September 10, 2009

Building Research Part 3 - A School for Immigrant Children Sponsored by the Astor Family

Now an apartment complex, once a school for underprivilged immigrant children

A reader suggested that I look into the history of the Fourteenth Ward Industrial School on Mott Street between Houston and Prince, founded in 1889 by the local nonprofit Children's Aid Society. Designed by architect Calvert Vaux (whose resume also includes Central Park), it's surprisingly opulent for a charity-run school, with bay windows, terracotta panels, and a jagged gable roof. And no wonder: it was funded by John Jacob Astor, whose wife, Charlotte, had supported a similar program in the neighborhood for over 25 years. (Children's Aid managed several schools throughout the city, predominantly serving the immigrant community.)
An original architectural drawing of another Children's Aid Society school, built in 1875 on East Broadway.
"For thousands of children the school has given an opportunity to obtain the training needed to make them self-supporting," the New York Times wrote in a piece on the school's innauguration. "A great deal of work has been done among the Italians, who have proved to be among the best students the school has ever had."

When Mrs. Astor died, her husband bought a lot at 256 Mott Street for $21,000 (previously the site of a frame house and a wooden cottage, and a stable where a brawl between Greek and Italian immigrants took place) and shelled out another $42,000 for a new schoolhouse's construction. The finished structure was dedicated to Charlotte.

A kitchen and dining hall occupied its "roomy basement," and the four above-ground floors housed classrooms, teachers' lounges, and workshops. "The building is heated by steam and well supplied with fire escapes," The Times made sure to note. "There is a small playground on the south side of the building, reached by a flight of steps from the basement." Which is long gone, now that the building's been divided into apartments.
-posted by Liana Grey


  1. I'm sure you're aware of this, but there are two other Vaux/CAS collaborations in the East Village. One is on the east side of Tompkins Square Park, and the other is on 6th Street, between B and C.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.