Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Hillcrest Center for Children records, 1956-1975

Summary Information


This collection documents the foundation and operation of the Hillcrest Center for Children, a foster care institution that cared for children in Bedford Hills, NY from 1956 to 1977.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#0593
Bib ID 4078899 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Hillcrest Center for Children (Bedford Hills, N.Y.)
Title Hillcrest Center for Children records, 1956-1975
Physical Description 4.5 linear feet (4 boxes)
Language(s) English .

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.



This collection has been arranged into 4 series.



Correspondence, memoranda, minutes, reports, and miscellaneous material including files of Katharine D. Brownell, M.D., 1963-1970; general files of the organization dealing with Hillcrest's relationship to various New York City and State agencies; minutes of the Board of Directors; and annual reports. Among the correspondents are New York City Mayors Robert F. Wagner, Jr., and John Vliet Lindsay.

  • Series I: Cataloged Correspondence, 1957-1970

    This series contains correspondence between Katharine D. Brownell and New York mayors John Vliet Lindsay and Robert F. Wagner, Jr.

  • Series II: Katharine F. Brownell, Jr. Files, 1957-1973

    This series include discussions of the center's operations, programs, and problems with several agencies; construction and facilities maintenance; personnel; board meetings and decisions; special reports, and clippings.

  • Series III: General Files, 1966-1975

    This series contains a variety of information, including communications with the NYC Human Resources Administration and the New York State Board of Social Welfare, statistics on the numbers of children cared for, personnel manuals, and information on the buildings and facilities such as architectural plans and contracts.

  • Series IV: Board of Directors, 1957-1975

    This series contains minutes from the meetings of the board of directors, which include treasurer's reports, discussions of construction or other changes to the school, important events, and census information giving numbers, ages, and other information on the children. It also contains annual reports which describe the successes and difficulties of each year and outlines plans for improvement. The first report (1956-1957) includes detailed accounts of the creation of the center, an explanation of its goals and philosophy, a copy of the schools rules, schedules, staff reporting guidelines, and several case studies showing the reactions of specific children to the new center, and a medical report.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Hillcrest Center for Children records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Cataloged Christina Hilton Fenn 07/--/1989.

Papers reprocessed Carolyn Smith 11/2014.

Revision Description

2016-10-06 File created.

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Adoption Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Brownell, Katharine D Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Child care -- New York (State) -- Bedford Hills Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Children -- Institutional care Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Group homes for children Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Hillcrest Center for Children, Inc Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lindsay, John V (John Vliet) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
New York (N.Y.). Board of Education Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
New York (State). Department of Social Services Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Race relations in school management Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Social work with children Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Wagner, Robert F (Robert Ferdinand), 1910-1991 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

The Hillcrest Center for Children was a city-owned foster care institution. It was founded in 1956 by appointment of the mayor of New York City, Robert F. Wagner. Wagner also appointed the members of the board. Hillcrest was built in Bedford Hills, New York in a converted tuberculosis sanatorium.

The center accepted boys and girls between the ages of six and fourteen who were not considered appropriate candidates for state schools, residential treatment centers, institutions for disabled children, or foster family care. Hillcrest also housed children for shorter terms when foster homes or other institutions were unavailable, and then moved them when possible. Despite criticism, the center accepted children of all races and faiths in a mixed setting. It provided medical care, a school (PS#407 Manhattan at Hillcrest), play areas, and activities. It also placed great emphasis on psychiatric care and spiritual guidance and strived to make the children feel safe and included. Children were involved in decision-making processes; for example, both staff and children discussed rules at meetings to create the Hillcrest Code of Behavior.

Hillcrest made changes to its program over the years, and struggled continuously with staff shortages. The center closed in 1977.

Voluntary child care agency in Bedford Hills, N.Y. Katharine D. Brownell, M.D. was president of the Board of Directors. The Center ceased operations in 1977.