Historical Highlights

This timeline provides an overview for the first 118 years of the Henry Street Settlement's history.

1893

Lillian Wald "settles in" on the Lower East Side to care for the poor. Wald's philosophy establishes Henry Street as a national leader in service to children, families, and the poor.

1895

Wald moves to 265 Henry Street during the summer. The building is a gift from Jacob Schiff, who purchased the property earlier that spring and arranged for its repair and furnishing.

1902

The Settlement adds buildings at 299, 301, and 303 Henry Street, which includes a gymnasium.

The Settlement opens one of New York City's earliest playgrounds in Henry Street's backyard to provide a safe environment for children forced to play in crowded and unsafe city streets.

The salary for the first public school nurse in New York City is paid by Henry Street. Her success prompts the Board of Education to appoint nurses in schools.

1908-9

The Settlement opens its first summer camps: Camp Henry for boys and Echo Hill Farm for girls.

1915

The Lewisohn sisters build The Neighborhood Playhouse, one of the first "Little Theaters" in New York City. Between 1915 and 1927, the theater presents plays by Shaw, Joyce, and Dunsany. Now called the Harry De Jur Playhouse, the theater continues to showcase many Settlement arts programs.

1927

The Henry Street Music School opens. Through the years it has hosted and produced hundreds of concerts and operas and trained thousands of musicians.

1930

Lillian Wald retires and becomes Director Emeritus of Henry Street Settlement.

1933

Helen Hall, former Director of the University Settlement in Philadelphia, succeeds Lillian Wald as Director.

1937

To combat the loan shark racket, Settlement members start the Credit Union. Over the years, neighborhood residents received over $3 million in loans.

1940

The Homeplanning Workshop is founded to help residents of the newly built Vladeck Housing projects and other community members repair furniture and appliances, make clothes, and mend shoes. One of the earliest programs in a public housing facility in New York City, the Workshop continues to serve the neighborhood today.

1944

The Visiting Nurse Service of the Settlement separates from Henry Street to become the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.

1946

Now called the Community Consultation Center (CCC), Henry Street's Mental Hygiene Clinic, one of the first of its kind in the country, is founded to bring psychiatric help to the community. The CCC currently serves more than 500 people each year.

1952

Henry Street alumni create the Good Companions Senior Program in order to provide companionship and activities for the elderly. In 1967, the program becomes a Federal Government pilot project to determine the effectiveness of multipurpose senior centers. As a result of the project, federal legislation is passed to fund nutrition centers for the elderly throughout the country.

1954

On May 30, a 23-year-old choreographer presented the first public performance of his choreography at Henry Street, a dance called Jack and the Beanstalk. That choreographer was Paul Taylor, the youngest member of the pantheon that created American modern dance, and one of history's most celebrated artists.

1957

Henry Street helps create the experimental Mobilization for Youth, which brings together Lower East Side resources to attack juvenile delinquency. It provides the foundation for future federal poverty programs during the 1960s.

1967

Operation Athlete is founded. The program helps young men and women enter college through academic preparation and access to athletic scholarships. Since its inception, more than 1,000 young people have participated in the program.

In order to learn about urban issues, United Parcel Service (UPS) managers from across the country begin to live and work at the Settlement through the UPS Community Internship Program. The Program celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 1992.

Bertram Beck succeeds Helen Hall as Director of Henry Street Settlement.

1968

Henry Street Settlement's Day Care Center opens to serve the culturally diverse families of the Lower East Side with learning and enrichment for very young children.

The alumni group of the Settlement, the Henry Street Oldtimers, celebrates its 30th Anniversary by honoring songwriter Sammy Cahn (a former Settlement participant) in a dinner at the Hilton Hotel. Jack Benny acts as master of ceremonies in an evening which features such guests as Red Buttons, Johnny Carson, Warren Beatty, Julie Stein and Senator Jacob Javits.

The Pioneer Counselor in Training Program is founded at Camp Henry, an all boys camp. Leadership, community service, and job training skills are taught as part of a year-round comprehensive youth development program.

1969

The Settlement's Housekeeping Service is established to assist the frail elderly and disabled in maintaining their independence. In 1991, the program will expand to serve people with HIV/AIDS.

Henry Street receives its first housekeeping contract from the New York City Department of Social Services, allowing the Settlement to provide homemaker assistance to Medicaid clients who are homebound, infirm, and handicapped in the borough of Manhattan.

1972

The Urban Family Center, one of the first transitional housing facilities for homeless families, is founded. To date, it has helped more than 5,000 families to move into permanent housing.

1975

Dedication of the Arts for Living Center (now called the Louis Abrons Arts Center.) First Lady Betty Ford, Mayor Abraham Beame, former Mayor Robert F. Wagner, and the National Endowment for the Arts Chair Nancy Hanks attend. The Center is one of the first arts facilities in the nation designed for a predominantly low-income population.

1976

263-265-267 Henry Street, the Settlement's original home, are declared national historic landmarks.

1977

One of the first publicly funded Battered Women's Shelters in New York City opens under the auspices of the Urban Family Center.

1986

The Shelter Management Training program (now the Center for Training) opens to bring the Urban Family Center's experience with current and formerly homeless families to workers in shelters. In 1991, the program expands to serve managers of public housing facilities.

1987

Henry Street is designated the official provider of AIDS Mental Health Services for the Lower East Side by New York City’s Department of Mental Health.

1989

The Urban Family Center is singled out by Diana, Princess of Wales, when she visits New York City, as one of the most effective programs for homeless families. Her visit brings international attention to Henry Street.

1992

On July 13th, Governor Bill Clinton visits Henry Street. He mentions his visit to the Settlement on national television later that week as he accepts the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination at Madison Square Garden.

2000

The Housekeeping program expands in Brooklyn, where it begins providing housekeeping service to Russian-speaking clients. Russian-Speaking administrative staff is hired and about 200 Russian-speaking home care workers are hired to serve about 400 Russian-speaking clients.

Child Health Plus is introduced in the State of New York. Henry Street is one of the sub-contractors of the Children Aid’s Society, enabling the Settlement to assist clients in the enrollment of health insurance for children ages 1-19.

The CCC receives the William Charet Award from the New York City Department of Mental Health for its excellence and leadership in the field of mental health.

2001

Larraine Ahto, CCC Clinic Director, receives the New York State Office of Mental Health Lifetime Achievement Award.

2002

Arts in Education coordinators receive the Coming Taller Award from the President’s Committee of the Arts and Humanities in Washington, D.C., for Abrons Arts Center’s Architecture and Design/Community Arts Project.

2003

Henry Street officially opens the Workforce Development Center at 99 Essex Street. The state-of-the-art facility offers a one-stop location for comprehensive employment services and adult basic education. It features a conference room, classrooms with audio-visual tools, a career resource center with research resources and tools for client job searches, a 12-station computer lab and a video studio.

2004

Henry Street Settlement’s walk-in service, the Neighborhood Resource Center, opens at the CCC to serve clients impacted by 9/11 and to offer accessible and concrete housing, financial, legal, crisis counseling and advocacy services.

The Arts in Education Director is invited to serve throughout 2003 and 2004 on the committee that developed the New York City Department of Education’s “Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts,” which has become the citywide standard.

2005

“9/11: The Great Equalizer,” an essay by NRC Director Vita Iacovone is featured in On the Ground after September 11: Mental Health Responses and Practical Knowledge Gained, released in September as part of the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

Harlem Legal Services and Legal Services of New York on September 20, 2005, names the Community Consultation Center as an “outstanding community partner” for its work in the Lower East Side through the Neighborhood Resource Center.

2006

The Settlement’s first ever Strategic Plan is initially implemented. The five-year plan is designed to strengthen and improve the agency’s infrastructure, increase investment in staff and consolidate and streamline services.

Henry Street reorganizes and consolidates its services, offering all programs under the umbrella of four clusters: Health and Wellness, Youth and Workforce Development, Transitional and Supportive Housing, and Visual and Performing Arts (Abrons Arts Center).

The first season of the reinvigorated Abrons Arts Center features such performers as Debra Winger, hosts entries from the New York Fringe Festival and presents a series of concerts in collaboration with Tonic and Danspace Project, Performance Space 122, Franklin Furnace and the Public Art Fund.

2007

Henry Street opened a new supported permanent housing residence at 290 East Third Street. The newly constructed building has 52 efficiency apartments for single adults, 43 of which are occupied by individuals with a long history of homelessness and mental health issues, many of whom have never before lived on their own. (Nine are occupied by low-income neighborhood residents).

Henry Street received a new contract enabling the Agency’s housekeeping services to hire a new staff of registered nurses to visit clients to assess their needs and help connect them to needed services.

2008

The Art Show, an essential fundraiser for the Settlement, celebrated its 20th birthday and brought in more than $1.5 million to support Henry Street programs. The show, organized by the Art Dealers Association, was held at the Park Avenue Armory in February.

Henry Street and its founder Lillian Wald were featured in The Jewish Americans, a documentary that aired on PBS. In addition to historical coverage, the film included present-day footage of Settlement programs.

All of the nearly 100 high school seniors served by Henry Street’s Expanded Horizons program were admitted to college – many at their first choice school and with generous financial aid packages.

Henry Street received more than 500 pairs of new shoes, courtesy of Malaak Compton-Rock, Erica Reid and Liz Claiborne, Inc. The distribution of the shoes to Henry Street clients appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Henry Street was awarded the home-delivered meals contract for Manhattan Community Districts 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6. Beginning in January 2009, Henry Street will be preparing and delivering 1,000 meals per day to the homebound elderly.

2009

Some 71 college students – the most ever in a single year – received college scholarships ranging from $100 to $1,100 at the seventh annual Youth Scholarship Awards Ceremony.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking at the agency’s fundraising gala in April, said: “We talk about Main Street, we talk about Wall Street. But maybe we should be talking about Henry Street.”

The Fashion Institute of Technology presented Ruth Taube, Home Planning Workshop Director, with the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The honor has been bestowed on only four other people; Anna Wintour, Bill Blass, Calvin Klein and Oscar de la Renta.

Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver presented youth client Shaquana Gardner with a proclamation for her “extensive academic accomplishments.” Stories about Ms. Gardner appeared in the NY Daily News and other media.

The health care team from Henry Street’s Community Consultation Center began providing services to the residents at Henry Street’s East Third Street Women’s Shelter, making health care more accessible to this medically vulnerable population.

More than 200 domestic violence survivors, law enforcement officials, government officials, community activists and others attended Henry Street’s 10th annual Domestic Violence Awareness conference.

Verona Middleton-Jeter, Executive Director of Henry Street since 2002, announced that she would retire on June 30, 2010, after 38 years at the Settlement, seven of them as Executive Director.

The New Yorker named two Abrons Arts Center productions – Justin Bond’s Christmas Spells and Banana Bag & Bodice’s Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage - to its best theatre of 2009 lists, published December 18.

2010

David Garza, Chief Administrator of Henry Street's Workforce Development Center, was named the new Executive Director of the Settlement. He took office on July 1, 2010.

The total amount raised in ticket sales and contributions to the annual Art Show was 22 percent more than the previous year. The newly formed Young Collectors Committee of Henry Street Settlement held its first event to support the agency's Art Show benefit.

The Abrons Arts Center hosted an historic three-day festival honoring Alwin Nikolais, one of the pioneers of modern dance and former director of Henry Street's Playhouse. The celebration, which marked the 100 anniversary of Nikolais's birth, was held April 30, May 1 and 2.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) visited the agency in June, toured the senior center, and vowed to help bring federal dollars to the Lower East Side.

Henry Street hosts its first ever Community Day, held in October at the Abrons Arts Center. More than 500 community residents enjoyed a performance by Karole Armitage's dance company, music by Graham and Harrison Whitford, a barbecue and more.

For the first time, Henry Street opens its doors as part of Open House New York. Nearly 130 individuals went on tours of the agency's historic headquarters at 265 Henry Street.

2011

With over 12,000 attendees, the 23rd Annual Art Show raises $1.2 million for Henry Street Settlement.

Henry Street launches its new website.

The Harry De Jur Playhouse, for 87 years the home of Henry Street Settlement's cutting-edge performing arts programming, is designated a New York City landmark by a unanimous vote of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. In addition, The New York Times crowns the Abrons Arts Center a "contemporary performance hotbed."

Henry Street's sold-out 2011 Spring Dinner Dance honors Richard S. Abrons, President of the Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation and Vice Chairman of Henry Street, Ursula M. Burns, Chair and CEO of Xerox Corporation, and Lauren Bush, Co-Founder and CEO of Feed Projects. At the event, Ms. Burns announces that the Xerox Foundation has approved a $250,000 grant to Henry Street's Expanded Horizons College Prep Program.

Expanded Horizons, Henry Street's college prep program, helps nearly 100 students receive college acceptances to schools including Cornell University, New York University, the University of Chicago, American University and University of Southern California. And through the support of the Abrons/Aranow Scholarship Fund, each student receives a scholarship ranging in amounts from $500 to $1,000.

Henry Street commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the deadliest industrial disaster in New York City history, with a tea and reception to acknowledge Henry Street's early support for the labor movement, and work place and fire safety reforms. The reception is attended by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

A unique partnership between the Settlement and Equine Advocates, a rescue and sanctuary in upstate New York, is established. Henry Street clients — including many youth in our shelters — visit the sanctuary. A benefit concert — Bebe Neuwirth & Friends — is held at the Abrons Arts Center to raise money for the partnership.

Henry Street achieves the highest private fundraising year ever.

2012

The 2012 Spring Dinner Dance, held on April 3 at Gotham Hall, is one of the most successful in the Settlement's history. The event honored Michael Tiedemann, Chief Investment Officer of Tiedemann Wealth Management and Chief Executive Officer of TIG Advisors LLC, and Adriana Cisneros, Vice Chairman and Director of Strategy of The Cisneros Group of Companies. Microsoft received the Corporate Leadership Award.

Partners in Preservation (PIP) announces June 13 that it will award Henry Street Settlement $175,000 after a lively four-week online voting competition. In addition to the online campaign, Henry Street hosted an open house party on May 6 to get out the vote. More than 600 people attended the event, which featured old-time street games, a cake baking contest, Zumba, refreshments and more in honor of Lillian Wald's 145th birthday.

New York's mayor and City Council announce in July that they will restore funding to youth services, including Henry Street's vital after-school programs. Massive proposed cuts to the Fiscal Year 2013 city budget would have eliminated some Henry Street programs. The Settlement played an important role advocating for the restoration of funds. Joining with fellow Lower East Side settlement houses and other groups, Henry Street created a May 3 town hall meeting attended by hundreds that demonstrated the community's outrage over the cuts.

Henry Street and its founder, Lillian Wald, are featured in Activist New York, an exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York about the ways ordinary New Yorkers have exercised their power to shape the city and the nation.

Henry Street's Urban Family Center, America's first family shelter, marks its 40th anniversary with a series of events throughout the year.

A new Geriatric Care Program, made possible by a grant from the NYS Office of Mental Health, is established, allowing Henry Street's Senior Services and Primary & Behavioral Health divisions to collaborate in offering comprehensive care for seniors.

Henry Street became a NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) Partner to work more effectively with public housing residents.

Hurricane Sandy hits New York, leaving the Lower East Side without power and heat and flooding buildings. The Settlement's Urban Family Center is hit hard by the storm; some 108 families are evacuated until power is restored to the building, and Henry Street employees continue working with families at their evacuation shelter. During and after the storm, Henry Street continues to offer vital services; distributes more than 20,000 meals and thousands of bottles of water and blankets to neighbors in need; opens our Good Companions Senior Center as a designated city warming center; and more. In the aftermath of the storm, Henry Street is chosen as a provider agency for Project Hope, a grant-funded program that provides crisis counseling, educational information and resource linkage to those affected by the superstorm. The Settlement also provides 355 area families with $25,495 in food vouchers and assistance with utility bills, through funds given by the Robin Hood Foundation.

Henry Street Executive Director David Garza receives a "Downtowner of the Year" award from Manhattan Media on December 13. Garza is one of two downtown leaders to be recognized for efforts in the Hurricane Sandy recovery.

2013

DECENTER, an exhibit celebrating the legacy of the 1913 Armory Show, opens at Henry Street's Abrons Arts Center. The exhibit highlights Henry Street's sponsorship of the 50th anniversary exhibition of the Armory Show in 1963, the occasion which announced the construction of what is today known as the Abrons Arts Center. Henry Street further developed this historic legacy through the annual Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory, the first of multiple art fairs inspired by the original Armory event.