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Greenwich House Records

Call Number



1896-1990, inclusive
; 1896-1946, bulk


Greenwich House (New York, N.Y.)
Gulkin, Anita Kurman (Role: Donor)


107.25 Linear Feet
(124 boxes)

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.


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 established social service and cultural programs for the largely Italian population of Greenwich Village. Greenwich House continues to offer an array of cultural, educational and social service programs. The records contain minutes, reports, correspondence, publicity material, program files, financial documents, publications, scrapbooks and 36,000 index cards detailing the activities of Greenwich House. Extensive correspondence of Mary Simkhovitch covers, in addition to House activities, such topics as political reform and public housing, as well as her unsuccessful 1937 campaign for the New York City Council.

Historical Note

Greenwich House was incorporated in 1902 as the Cooperative Social Settlement Society of the City of New York by Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch with Felix Adler, R. Fulton Cutting, Eugene A. Philbin, Henry C. Potter, Jacob Riis, and Carl Schurz. Under the leadership of its director, Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch, 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.

Greenwich House opened in 1902, with nine residents working out of a renovated tenement house at 26 Jones Street. Greenwich House's first challenges were to work to reduce the debilitating infant mortality rate in Greenwich Village, then the highest in New York City, and to ameliorate the oppressive social conditions that attended the neighborhood's population congestion.

Greenwich House's activities and programs reflected the vision and interests of Director Mary K. Simkhovitch (1867-1951). Simkhovitch was born in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and received a BA degree from Boston University in 1890. As a student, Simkhovitch did volunteer work with African-American women and girls. She was a graduate student at Radcliffe College, the University of Berlin, and Columbia University. In 1899, she married Vladimir G. Simkhovitch (1874-1959), a Russian economist she had met in Berlin.

Before founding Greenwich House, Mrs. Simkhovitch 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 -- being a part of neighborhood life, rather than simply a provider to services to the population of the area.

Throughout her forty-two year tenure as director, Mrs. Simkhovitch was active in numerous other organizations. She was active in 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. Her anti-Tammany electoral campaign was unsuccessful.

In its first quarter century, Greenwich House rapidly expanded, acquiring numerous buildings in the Greenwich Village area. It 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. The House actively supported legislation and other government action to alleviate these and other problems, such as "some of the more notorious saloons."

By the end of the First World War, Greenwich House had clearly expanded its role beyond that of a small social service dispensary. Integral to its growth and success were its residents, the young social workers and middle-class reformers who lived in the settlement house and who frequently worked with promising leaders developed from the client population. In addition to its cultural agenda and housing reform activities, it provided vital institutional support for government programs, a function that further solidified in the 1930's when many programs of the Works Projects Administration were housed at the Settlement.

Beyond its pioneering work in housing reform, Greenwich House set programmatic innovations in other areas. The Nursery School was the first and prototypical program of its kind in New York City. Simkhovitch, an ardent advocate of cultural programs, believed the arts to be essential human services. By 1917, when Greenwich House relocated to 27 Barrow Street, it offered music, theater and fine arts programs onsite and also established art classes in many local public schools. The Greenwich House Arts Committee was initiated with the support of Mrs. Payne Whitney, who later founded the Whitney Museum.

Two classic studies published in the pre-World War I years, Mary Ovington's Half a Manand Louise Boland More's Wage Earner's Budget: A Study of Standards and Costs of Living in New York City,were products of Greenwich House's Social Investigation Committee. The Tenant's Manual,published in 1903, was the first of its kind to document tenement laws and tenants' rights. 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.

In the 1930s and early 1940s, national and international events directly shaped much of the activity of Greenwich House. The House needed to respond to changed circumstances -- the joblessness and hunger created by the Great Depression, the rise of fascism, the New Deal and World War II. It was in this period that Mary Simkhovitch was one of the key figures responsible for the passage of the first federal housing act (1938).

Much effort was expended to find jobs for Greenwich Village residents. Greenwich House and Mrs. Simkhovitch had developed extensive contacts in local and national government, as well as in the private sector, and Works Projects Administration programs were located at the House. The local population often sought assistance in finding jobs or WPA positions, as well in dealing with relief agencies. The House also continued its traditional activities and even opened a summer camp for children, despite the financial difficulties that it experienced in this period.

Greenwich House also become a center for community forums on political issues, often centering on opposition to fascism. Greenwich House was not affiliated with any political organization, and permitted a wide variety of organizations to utilize its premises. The only organization known to have been denied use of Greenwich House was the American First Committee. In addition to the political and educational work carried out at Greenwich House (though not necessarily by the House), assistance was given to anti-Fascist refugees seeking jobs or residence in the United States.

Following the entry of the United States into the Second World War, the 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. Director Powers was particularly interested in the areas of juvenile delinquency and narcotics use, and programs dealing with these issues were created during his administration. Powers was a strong proponent of dealing with heroin addiction as a social and medical issue, rather than through the use of criminal sanctions.

Powers' successor as director, Anita Kurman Gulkin, heads an organization that has provided services to, and been a part of, the Greenwich Village community for nearly a century. Its activities continue to reflect Simkhovitch's commitment to making Greenwich House a part of the community. Some of its programs, such as the Music and Pottery Schools, date back to the first years of Greenwich House; others, such as AIDS counselling, reflect the House's ability to continue to assist the community, while dealing with new challenges.


Folders are generally arranged alphabetically.

The Greenwich House Records are organized into 9 series:

  1. Administrative Records
  2. Directors' and Executives' Records
  3. Program
  4. Music School
  5. Pottery School
  6. Scrapbooks
  7. Greenwich House Index Card Files
  8. Greenwich House Post-Simkhovitch Records
  9. Archived Website

Scope and Content Note

Series I through Series VII document Greenwich House from its origins to the 1946 retirement of Mary Simkhovitch. Series VIII covers the post-Simkhovitch era. Series I through VI-A have been microfilmed, and researchers must use the microfilm copy (R-7088).

Series I: Administrative Records

The Administrative records series includes charters and other founding documents, reports, minutes, financial, property and personnel records. The minutes, and the monthly and annual reports of the director and the various committees are a rich source of information on the activities and administration of Greenwich House, especially for period before 1920. The director's reports summarize the work of the many departments, based on department reports maintained in the individual department files (see Program - Departments and Activities subseries). Examples of activities documented in the Administrative minutes and reports include: the 1904 installation of a bath for neighborhood use, plans for an evening clinic and visiting nurse services (1908), and Saturday evening cooking classes for boys (1903).

Among the financial records are reports and lists of contributors. The property records document the ownership, maintenance, renovation and furnishing of the several buildings to meet changing needs. The personnel records cover paid workers, residents and volunteers, and include evaluations and resumes which document their work, background, and reasons for coming to Greenwich House. Kirk Douglas and Elia Kazan were two future celebrities who applied for work at Greenwich House.

An Addendum consisting of two boxes of subsequently discovered records was not microfilmed. The container list for these boxes (17A & 17B) appear at the end of the container list for series one.


The only annual report included in the microfilm edition of the Greenwich House Records is the 1945-1946 report. Earlier annual reports are available on microfilm (Tamiment Institute Library Reel 7089).

Series II: Directors' and Executives' records

The bulk of this series consists of the extensive correspondence of Mary Simkhovitch. Although her correspondence spans her career, the bulk of the material is from the 1930s and 1940s. Simkhovitch's correspondence is arranged in four parts: Individuals, Organizations, Recommendations and Requests for Employment, Chronological.

Prominent and/or frequent correspondents include Emily Balch, MKS' close friend and socially prominent fellow reformer, Henrietta Epstein, Elizabeth Gannon, Margaret Gage, Robert Moses, David Rockefeller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Alfred E. Smith, Henry L. Stimson, Senator Robert F. Wagner, and Gerard Swope. Simkhovitch maintained voluminous correspondence with women reformers, and with socially prominent women who responded to her frequent appeals for financial support of Greenwich House.

There is extensive correspondence on housing issues. Simkhovitch also received letters from people who had used Greenwich House facilities or worked for Greenwich House. Among these are letters from soldiers during World War II, discussing the war and their memories of Greenwich House.

Simkhovitch's Speeches and Writings contain many articles written for religious publications on a variety of reform issues, world peace, and the like. There are numerous radio addresses, numerous speeches (or notes for speeches) about Greenwich House, and political campaign speeches endorsing others, as well as for her unsuccessful 1937 candidacy for New York City Council. Many speeches and articles document Simkhovitchs' housing activism.

Much of Simkhovitch's involvement in other organizations in the housing and social reform fields can be found in the Outside Organizations segment of the Program series.

Series III: Programs

Subseries A: Departments and Activities; this subseries contains files (arranged alphabetically) from some 70 Greenwich House departments and activities documenting the broad scope of Greenwich House work. The files contain a variety of forms of material, including reports, announcements and ephemera, and some correspondence. The various reports were summarized by Simkhovitch in her reports (see Administrative - Corporate Records subseries). Several files, including Board of Delegates, House Committee, and House Council are concerned with the administration of Greenwich House, and reflect attempts to involve community and clients in this work. Workshops given included European-style apprenticeships for boys in woodcarving and stonecutting (occupations in which Italian-Americans were heavily represented). Studies and Reports include an important survey of the living conditions of longshoremen. The range of Greenwich House activities and functions represented in the files include: domestic (Mending and Darning Bureau, Women's Home Service); education (Ella Sachs Plotz Memorial Library, Kindergarten, Nursery School, Trade Union course); health (Health Department, Milk Distribution); recreation (Camps, Girls' Athletics, Jones Street Boys' Club); vocational (Greenwich House Industrial Bureau, Junior Employment Service)

This subseries contains very special and unusual ephemera, including programs, tickets, flyers, posters, as well as some correspondence, for benefits, anniversaries, holidays and other special events. Among these were the several Metropolitan Opera performances for the benefit of Greenwich House, and variety shows starring such actors as Marie Dressler and John Barrymore. Simkhovitch's close relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt, who settled in the Washington Square area after she left the White House is reflected in this subseries. Other people close to Simkhovitch were Fiorello LaGuardia and Herbert Lehmann. Each lent name as patron to benefits and special events, and participated when possible.

This subseries dates from the early days of Greenwich House and contains reports, minutes, correspondence (principally Simkhovitch), and various other materials. These are all organizations of which either Simkhovitch or Greenwich House was a member. Greenwich House was a member of Association of Neighborhood Workers, United Neighborhood Houses, Greenwich Village Improvement Society, etc. Simkhovitch was member and often officer of groups such as the Public Recreation Commission, Parks and Playgrounds Association of NYC, National Public Housing Conference (NPHC). The main theme of this material is Simkhovitch's personal struggle to make the Village a better place for her working-class and poor neighbors and to unite the Village as a real community rather than submit to the normal anonymity of city life. Her concern extended beyond her own neighborhood, as membership in such organizations as the NPHC shows. Highlights of this materials include Greenwich House involvement in setting aside land in Greenwich Village for public parks, clearing out of then red-light Minetta district, and decisions made over the south extension of 7th avenue.

Series IV: Music School

The Greenwich House Music School records (3 linear feet, 1920s-1980s) contain concert and recital programs, correspondence, student records, reports, financial and personnel records (The Music School scrapbooks, 40 volumes, have been moved to the Scrapbooks series). The correspondence provides the best glimpse of the day to day activities outside the scrapbooks. A principal correspondent is Music School director Maxwell Powers, later director of Greenwich House. Concert and recital programs, tickets and other memorabilia document student recitals and benefit performances (including Marian Anderson at Carnegie Hall).

Series V: Pottery School

Most of the Pottery School records (4.5 of 5 linear feet) are from the post-Simkhovitch era. In addition, about.5 linear feet of photographs, some dating to the earliest pottery activities (c. 1912) were transferred to the Greenwich House photograph collection. The Pottery School records are arranged in nine series. The largest and most significant series is the Greenwich House Potters and Sculptors (containing membership lists and applications, minutes, newsletters, questionnaires, workshops) dating to 1947 for this internal community of artists. The other series are: Annual reports; Minutes (Executive, Show committees); Correspondence; Annual shows, sales and exhibits; Publicity; Class lists and syllabi; Legal; Ephemera.

Series VI: Scrapbooks

The Greenwich House scrapbooks (35 volumes, 1905-1968), contain clippings, flyers, brochures, press releases and other announcements of Greenwich House activities, anniversaries, and positions. Intermingled with these, and comprising at least half the contents of the scrapbooks, are clippings about Greenwich House and about neighborhood issues which elicited Greenwich House involvement or concern. The majority of the clippings are from local papers, some of which are no longer available. The scrapbooks also contain a detailed record of the far-ranging activities of Mary Simkhovitch (see especially the NYC Housing Authority scrapbooks, 1937-38). The scrapbooks offer a rich chronological record of the public face of Greenwich House and its community presence, complementing and filling some gaps in the Administrative and Program series.

The Music School scrapbooks (40 volumes, 1915-1979) primarily contain clippings, many from local newspapers, as well as flyers, concert programs, tickets, announcements, etc. which document the School's classes, concerts, community outreach, benefits, and other activities.

One scrapbook added to the collection in 2015 contains documents related to pianist and Greenwich House Music School director Marion Rous. It contains flyers, programs, and correspondence related to Rous's work with the music school between 1937 and 1940 as well as clippings, flyers, bulletins, and photographs more generally related to Greenwich House Music School programs and participants from 1925 to 1964.

The Music School Scrapbooks are NOT microfilmed.

Series VII: Greenwich House Index Card Files

The bulk of the 36,000 index cards (85%) document interactions with neighborhood people, clients, volunteers and others associated with Greenwich House. These dated entries, maintained from around 1918 through the 1950s, record the reason people contacted Greenwich House, services provided, ethnicity, biographical information, etc., and are a valuable quotidian window on the activity of Greenwich House and the social problems faced by the working class residents if Greenwich Village.

There are also four smaller sets of cards, namely: Greenwich House Library Card Catalog; Greenwich House Children's Theatre cards, c. 1926-1967; Henry Street Visiting Nurses' reports, 1910-1916 (provided health services for/at Greenwich House); Hudson Park Social Center cards, 1915. Some index cards contained information on both sides. In those cases, the text from the back of a card appears in the frame immediately following the frame showing the front of that card. Both sides of each two-sided card will appear in the same position within their frames. There are also four smaller sets of cards: Club, Individual and Family Record Cards; Greenwich House Library Catalog; Greenwich House Children's Theatre & Music School; Henry Street Settlement Visiting Nurses.

The Greenwich House Index Card Files were NOT microfilmed.

Series VIII: Greenwich House post-Simkhovitch records

Series VIII contains Greenwich House records from the period following the retirement of Mary Simkhovitch up to 1990. It includes records of the Music House and Pottery School, the New York House & School of Industry, and United Neighborhood Houses.

Music School materials added to this series in 2015 include administrative and programming records created between the late 1940s and 1990s. These documents consist of class rosters from the 1960s, monthly statistics 1956-59, financial statements 1974-1978, events calendars, programs flyers, brochures, issues of the Newsletter "Quarter Notes" 1989-1994, Annual Programs 1949-1980, GHMS Renee Weiler Music Center annual programs 1982-1993, and assorted staff files. Greenwich House Music School materials also contain records related to German Diez, who worked for many years as the chairman of the music school's piano department. These documents consists of Diez's student roll books, assorted Greenwich House Music School booklets and budgetary data from the 1940s, Greenwich House Music School programs and class materials, personal correspondence from the 1950s and early 2000s, documents related to Diez's emigration from Cuba, and SUNY Purchase teaching materials 1984-1999. Also contained in these materials are a number of audio/visual recordings of Greenwich House Music School events between 1973 and 1994.

The Greenwich House post-Simkhovitch records were NOT microfilmed.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) held by the Greenwich House, Inc. were transferred to New York University in 1986 by Anita Kurman Gulkin. Permission to publish or reproduce materials in this collection must be secured from repository. Please contact the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives,, 212-998-2596.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date; Greenwich House Records; TAM 139; box number; folder number or item identifier; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Greenwich House donated a collection of their records to Tamiment Library in 1986. The accession number associated with this gift is 1986.030. Additionally, a donation of 26 scrapbooks was added to the collection in 2010. The accession number associated with this gift is 2010.012. Materials found in repository were incorporated into the collection in 2014. The accession number associated with these materials is 2014.064. In 2015, Greenwich House sent an additional 5 boxes of materials related to Music School events and programs. The accession number associated with this gift is 2015.016.

Custodial History

The archived website was migrated from the California Digital Library's Web Archiving Service to the Internet Archive's Archive-It Service in November 2015. The link to California Digital Library was removed in October 2017.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

This collection, with the exception of Series I: Subseries F; four items in Series III: Subseries B; Series VI: Subseries B; and Series VII, is available on microfilm (Film R-7088, Reels 1-46) for use in this repository only. Researchers must use microfilm for this collection, except for what is listed above.

Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures

Access to audiovisual materials in this collection is available through digitized access copies. Researchers may view an item's original container, but the media themselves are not available for playback because of preservation concerns. Materials that have already been digitized are noted in the collection's finding aid and can be requested in our reading room. Any materials not yet digitized will need to have access copies made before they can be used. To request an access copy, or if you are unsure if an item has been digitized, please contact Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives,, 212-998-2596 with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.

Born-Digital Access Policies and Procedures

Born-digital materials have not been transferred and may not be available to researchers. Researchers may request access copies. To request that material be transferred, or if you are unsure if material has been transferred, please contact the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives,, 212-998-2596 with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested.

Separated Materials

Photographs were separated to the Greenwich House Photographs (PHOTOS 066).
Records from the New York City Housing Authority that were found in the Greenwich House Records were transferred to LaGuardia and Wagner Archives' NYCHA Collection in 1995.

Related Material at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

The Greenwich House Annual Reports, 1902-1960, were microfilmed previously and are available on two reels (TAM Reel 7089).
Helen A. Murphy Papers (TAM 611).

Existence and Location of Copies

Parts of the collection have been microfilmed on reels numbered Film R-7088.

Collection processed by

Alan Ginsberg, Stephanie Muntone and Peter Filardo (2009); Finding aid revised by to reflect portions of collection not microfilmed (2009)

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2024-02-06 14:01:15 -0500.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Description is in English

Processing Information

In 2014, the archived websites were added as Series IX.

In 2015, a donation of materials from the Greenwich House Music School were added to Series VIII: Greenwich House post-Simkovitch (not microfilmed), subseries 7: Music School.

In 2017, non-print materials that had been separated from the collection were re-integrated in Series VIII, Subseries 13.

In January 2020, conservators rehoused scrapbooks from boxes 130, 131, 135, and 136, disbinding the pages and foldering the contents for long-term preservation.

In May 2021, born-digital materials were processed and described.

Revisions to this Guide

October 2020: Record updated by Weatherly Stephan to reflect scrapbooks rehoused by conservators
April 2021: Record updated by Amy C. Vo for compliance with DACS and ACM Required Elements for Archival Description.

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived from GH.SGM


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
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