Friday, May 21, 2010

New York House and School of Industry: 120 West 16th Street

Prior to Class Size Matters' 2nd Annual Skinny Awards Arthur Goldstein and I discovered this beautiful building on 16th Street.
Was the headquarters of an organization that taught needletrades (and later typing) to needy women. In 1955, it was sold to the Friends of Hebrew Culture. Now the Young Adults Institute, a home for people with cognitive disabilities. This 1878 building is considered the first Queen Anne-style structure in the city.
an excerpt from the nytimes streetscapes
STREETSCAPES: The New York House and School of Industry; Where the Poor Learned 'Plain and Fine Sewing'
THIS summer the New York House and School of Industry at 120 West 16th Street promised to shape up as a major preservation battle for the fall. Built in 1878, the two-story building was marked for replacement by an apartment house, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission has scheduled a hearing on it for Sept. 15.
But in late July, the owner discovered that the State of New York had taken the property by eminent domain. Now, it will remain as a residence for the mentally retarded, no longer immediately threatened.
Charity was a growth industry in mid-19th century New York. Cities were indifferent to the health and housing needs of the poor and the working class, leading concerned private citizens to form several new charities a year. Many were unusually specific. For example, one asylum took only Protestant half-orphans.
Most had a moral purpose, encouraging those in difficulty to improve their lot by ''industry,'' rather than by vice, crime or insurrection.
The New York House and School of Industry was founded in 1851 to teach poor women ''plain and fine sewing.'' For some time, it was quartered in an old wooden farmhouse on its present site, but in 1878 the organization built an asymmetrical brick building designed by Sidney V. Stratton.
The building is still largely unchanged, with a projecting two-story oriel window on the left, a central entrance and top and bottom triple windows on the right. Above the main door, a tablet bears the organization's name and the date of construction in elaborate script, still legible, although slathered with paint. The overall form of the building is picturesque, and windows make up the greatest element of decoration: the oriel has panes of bottle ends and some of the windows have 44 panes in the top sash over four panes in the bottom.

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