Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The New York House and School of Industry

I stumbled upon this beautiful, albeit unusual, building while walking on West 16th St. last Friday. And with a name like "The New York House and School of Industry," I just had to do some research to discover exactly what that means. The organization itself was founded in 1851 as a school for teaching poor women "plain and fancy sewing." That explains the term "Industry." With the predominance of the needle trade as an outlets for the employment of women, acquiring sewing skills made sense in the late 19th century. By 1951, however, the school had replaced the sewing machines with typewriters and began educating women for jobs as typists.

The building, constructed in 1878, is cited in a couple of sources as the earliest example of the Queen Anne architectural style in New York City. In 1955 it was sold to the Friends of Hebrew Culture, a civic and social organization which held the building until about 1980. After 1980 it was used by the Young Adult Institute under contract with the New York State Office of Mental Retardation. (One wonders if this state agency retains that rather archaic name!) In the mid-80s developers nearly succeeded in razing the building for - shock! - luxury apartments. However, thanks to the efforts of preservationists, the city seized the property under eminent domain law. The building was given New York City landmark status and during the mid-90s underwent a complete renovation. The last information I could find showed that it's now known as Ames House and administered by the Young Adult Institute to house mentally challenged young adults. That information, however, is several years old and I can't confirm its present status. Still, it's nice to find another great example of the City's incredible architectural stock intact and in such beautiful condition!

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1 comment:

Kitty said...

hm, I don't think I've seen this building either. I would have remembered!
How cool?

I like parts of it more than the whole thing put together. The doors, the brickwork, the window bay in theory. I'll have to suss it out!