Greenwich House (New York, N.Y.)

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In 1902, Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch and others founded Greenwich House, a social settlement house in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. It was incorporated that year as the Cooperative Social Settlement Society of the City of New York. Greenwich House provided social services to its largely immigrant clientele, sought to improve housing conditions and recreational opportunities, and developed a variety of educational and cultural programs. Many of its clients were of Italian or Irish origin. Before founding Greenwich House, Simkhovitch, a Massachusetts native married to a Russian economist, Vladimir G. Simkovitch, had been active in supporting women's suffrage and social welfare legislation, and had worked in the settlement house movement. She envisioned Greenwich House as playing an integral role in the life of the neighborhood. Throughout her forty-two year tenure as director, Simkhovitch was active in numerous other organizations. She was active in a number of social reform organizations affiliated with the Episcopal Church; served as president of both the National Federation of Settlements and the Public Housing Conference; and was vice-president of the New York City Housing Authority from 1934-1948. In 1937, she ran for a seat on the New York City Council. She was one of the key figures responsible for the passage of the first federal housing act in 1938. In its first quarter century, Greenwich House rapidly expanded, acquiring numerous buildings in the Greenwich Village area. It founded the Greenwich Village Improvement Society, the city's first neighborhood association, established Music and Pottery Schools, provided infant care programs, and investigated and reported on tenants' rights, housing laws, and the high infant mortality rate in the area. It also provided institutional support for government social programs; the first nursery nursery school in New York City; and music, theater, and fine art programs. Its social investigation committee sponsored publications on social conditions in New York City. The House also sponsored fairs, carnivals, parades and other community events; presented plays and pageants; and furnished a broad array of medical and social services to community residents. During the 1930s and 1940s, it became a center for community forums on political issues, often centering on opposition to fascism. Following the entry of the United States into the Second World War, Greenwich House was active in the war mobilization effort. The House was involved in civil defense efforts (Simkhovitch became an air raid warden) and a whole panoply of activities to support the war. Simkhovitch retired as director in 1946, and continued to live at Greenwich House until her death in 1951. She was succeeded as director by Assistant Director Gertrude Cooper (1946-48). Two years later, Cooper was replaced by Music School Director Maxwell Powers (1948-1976). In the post-war, post-Simkhovitch, period Greenwich House continued to offer cultural, recreational, educational and social service programs. Powers was particularly interested in the areas of juvenile delinquency and narcotics use, and programs dealing with these issues were created during his administration. He was a strong proponent of dealing with heroin addiction as a social and medical issue, rather than through the use of criminal sanctions.

From the description of Greenwich House records, 1896-1990 (bulk 1896-1946). (New York University). WorldCat record id: 476161889

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Greenwich House (New York, N.Y.). Greenwich House records, 1896-1990 (bulk 1896-1946). Churchill County Museum
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Brown, Robin. person
associatedWith Cooperative Social Settlement Society of the City of New York. corporateBody
associatedWith Cooper, Gertrude. person
associatedWith Greenwich House (New York, N.Y.). Music School. corporateBody
associatedWith Greenwich House (New York, N.Y.). Pottery School. corporateBody
associatedWith Greenwich Village Improvement Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Powers, Maxwell. person
associatedWith Simkhovitch, Mary K. 1867-1951. person
associatedWith Simkhovitch, Vladimir G. 1874-1959. person
associatedWith Spinney, Mabel. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Greenwich Village (New York, N.Y.)
New York (State)--New York
New York (N.Y.)
Italian Americans
Housing--Law and legislation
Social settlements
Irish Americans

Corporate Body

Active 1896

Active 1990

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Ark ID: w6dr8c6d

SNAC ID: 20148131