A Lifeline for Children of the Street

The 1892 Sullivan Street Industrial School awaits a new mission.

Comments: 15

  1. Generations of Village kids and their grateful parents (as well as those of us who participated in various later-evening arts and athletics programming) miss and celebrate Steve Wobido, Director, and the entire staff of the Greenwich Village Center of the Childrens Aid Society.

  2. I'm still here! I loved the Sullivan Street location as a child. We took after school classes, played in the yard and I even had loads of dental work done there - we could never had afforded it otherwise. It was still a hangout for Italian, Portugese and Equadorian kids in the early 80's, as well the children of those bohemians mentioned in the article, like myself. I hope they don't tear it down - even if it does become just another high end residence, at least those few of us old villagers left can enjoy some warm memories as we pass the facade.

  3. I attended the Jones Memorial Center located on East 73rd Street as a child growing up in the 1950's. Same building design. I went to preschool and took ballet there as a small child. Also went to sleep away camp from there. My brother and I first saw "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" while sitting on the floor of the high first floor. In the summer we spent many days playing in the yard there and learning hopscotch. The number of neighborhood kids there was amazing. I still can remember my grandmother leaning out of her widow just across the street and checking for traffic so that she could "cross us over." Ronald McDonald House stands where it was.

  4. I grew up on Sullivan Street in the 70's and miss the bohemian artistic culture. They are fond memories of a byegone era.

  5. My sister and I both attended the Sullivan Street nursery school in the mid to late 1950s to 1960 or so, and it was wonderful. I very clearly remember playing in the schoolyard, with the open-air staircase leading down to it, and playing a seal in the Christmas pageant (what, exactly, a seal had to do with Christmas I am unclear -- I was four), with Lauritz Melchior of the Met playing Santa.

    I know my mother would not have been able to afford child care without it. It is a real loss to the neighborhood.

  6. Tried to figure out what the boys might have been doing. How's this? The center of the tables have some sort of gas fittings, and the first and last boys on the left have pipes to their lips and if you look carefully you'll see the flames of gas burners, so they might be blowing some form of glass tubes. On the right side of the table, the boys appear to be shaping objects and one is using a small saw (they may not all be doing the same thing). Each child has a small "vice" at his station to hold objects, and notice how focused and immersed all of them are on the task at hand. No A.D.D. here. Notice how not one is wearing eye protection or safety gear, no one checking Facebook, talking or posing for the camera or multitasking... These young men appear to be part of the hard working generation that went to fight in WW I, built NYC and this great country of ours... Any other theories as to what these boys may have doing?

  7. Several of the former faculty members from the Sullivan St. Children's Aid Society location have created an early childhood center in the neighborhood: http://www.littlepeepprep.com/
    Both of our kids attended preschool at 219 Sullivan St. and had a great experience. We wish Little Peep Prep well!

  8. what the boys are doing that is called "unclear" is quite clear.
    They are learning jewelry making or repair.

  9. I was hoping someone would come up with an explanation. Thank you.

  10. So bittersweet. On the one hand the schools did their jobs well and contributed much to the evolution of the city and the neiborhood itself. But on the other hand they've basically been so successful that - combined woth massive gentrification - they've outlived much of their usefulness. Glad to hear they are decamping for other parts of the city where there are children and communities in need.

    On a specific note: yikes that the developer was able to acquire the playground. Man I hope they leave it fully accessible to the public. Wealthy neighborhood or not it would REALLY be a shame if access became restricted.

  11. I went to kindergarden there in the sixties. My artist parents raised a ruckus with my teacher because she had us drawing using stencils. Aside from that it was great! Old Italian ladies made us wonderful lunches, particularly the soups.
    Does anyone else remember the funny small indoor swimming pool?
    Later I attended the Children's Aid day camp that left from in front of the Sullivan St building taking the ferry to Staten Island. Great, mostly unsupervised, fun!

  12. Perhaps the CAS has evolved from its 19th century Calvinist roots, perhaps not.

    Originally from Belfast, a city noted for its bitter sectarian divide, Rev. Brace had the reputation as much as proselytizing his brand of strict anti-Catholic Protestantism than in helping the poor.

    According to the New World Encyclopedia, to quote just one source, "he often faced charges of being anti-Catholic because most of the children he relocated were urban Catholics and they were all sent to rural Protestant homes".

    Another source comments, "Brace and his peers considered Catholic parents unworthy almost by definition"

    Yes, although he set up this local school, most of his work involved stealing, er, taking 1000s of poor Catholic children from their parents and shipping them out to Calvinists in places like Kansas. For an abolitionist who fought to keep slave families intact, this procedure smacked of religious bigotry and zealotry.

    I suppose he believed, "If you can't convert them, tear them asunder."

    And this attitude may not only be confined to the 19th century.

    A few years back, when the local youth basketball league from St. Anthony's Church, also on Sullivan Street, needed a temporary place for their teams to play when their gym was in disuse, the CAS on Sullivan refused to share their gym with the local Catholic kids.

    Some things just don't change.

    Oh, Happy St. Patrick's Day, Rev. Brace

  13. I grew up in the neighborhood and took after-school classes there--pottery, drawing--in the late '60s & early '70s. I loved them.

  14. Great piece Christopher,

    Thank you for noting our mostly restored, Tompkins Sq. Vaux Newsboys Lodging Home...We still have significant work yet to do on it, alas, we ran out of funds after the 1st round of work.

    My gratitude for advocating for the preservation of the Vaux oeuvre. Vaux only built 11 CAS structures, however, of the red-brick style you describe. There was a 12th clapboard structure called The Health Home (now demolished) on Coney Island, adjacent to Haxtun Cottrage & Green Corridor Cottage, both Vaux designs. And The House of Reception in Manhattan, built for the NY Juvenile Asylum, an entity distinct from the CAS.

    Brace's Dobbs Ferry home is still in existence, though quite modified. Also, though you list 6 structures extant you don't mention the 6th Street Industrial School, at 630 East 6th Street, recently restored to a reasonable degree, with an addition built on its east side. It now serves as an AIDS hospice.

    I concur with the post below referring to Brace's divisive side. Apparently the majority of the young Catholic boys shipped off to Protestant and Lutheran farms in the Mid-west weren't orphans as advertised in the 'Orphan Train' resettlement literature. The Catholic community rose up about this naked attempt to dismantle "Catholic family structure." Most of the boys ran away from their indentured servitude and apparently used their New York street smarts to create one of the greatest crime waves the Mid-West had ever experienced.

  15. I am also a minister, and the first church I served in NYC was City Grace, which met at 219 Sullivan from 2007 to 2011. We worshiped in the upstairs gym. I have great memories of the sun streaming in on Sunday mornings, of the brightness of the place, of the quiet Sunday mornings walking over.