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Series I: Everett P. Wheeler Papers, 1851-1917
Series VI: Audio-Visual Materials, 1908-1990
At a Glance
Arranged in 7 series.
The records include addresses, annual reports, correspondence, memos, minutes, program files, newsclippings, administrative records, photographs, video tape, and film. They include material dating from the decades prior to the establishment of the settlement which shed light on the philosophy and motivation of its founders, and offer a unique view of the first wave of the settlement house movement in America. The records document social conditions, demographic change, political activity and philanthropy in New York City. Addresses by East Side House founder Everett P. Wheeler, included in Series I, document his family history and career as a lawyer and civic reformer prior to the founding of East Side House. Wheeler's correspondence details his role in establishing the settlement and managing it during its first decades.
Administrative files in Series II on the East Side Club, the Webster Free Library and John Jay Park fill in the picture of East Side House during its early years. This series continues through the early 1990s and includes records of special events, fundraising, and other administrative matters.
Annual reports and minutes in Series III offer the most comprehensive view of the spectrum of settlement programs and services from its founding in 1891 to the 1990s.
The bulk of records in Series IV are from the period 1960-1990, and document East Side House's work in the South Bronx from the point of view of its executive staff. There are only a few items of correspondence from earlier periods in this series.
Program records in Series V also focus on the Bronx era, and include reports, participant statistics, and correspondence on such activities as youth recreation and employment counseling, senior citizen centers, and day care.
Photographs, films and video tape in Series VI document settlement program activities and participants, as well as board members and staff.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
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 no restrictions.
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.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); East Side House records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
See: Settlement House Records Registers
Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Records: Source of acquisition--East Side House. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--09/23/1994. Accession number--M-94-09-23.
Gift of East Side House, 1994.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Records Added to RLIN HR 05/10/2002.
The records were processed and this finding aid prepared by James Moske and Holly MacCammon of LaGuardia and Wagner Archives, with funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. September 2001.
2010-01-28 Legacy finding aid created from Pro Cite.
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Social settlement founded in 1891 by Everett P. Wheeler and other members of the Church Club of the City of New York on Manhattan's East Side. Moved to the Bronx in 1963.
During the late 1800s the upper east side of Manhattan experienced a dramatic increase in population and economic activity. Thousands of working class families -- predominantly Irish but also including Germans, Bohemians and Italians moved into tenement buildings and worked for local businesses and industries. These new residents formed a vital community establishing churches benevolent societies and fraternal organizations. But the dense concentration of population also gave rise to a host of urban problems poor housing inadequate health care lack of educational opportunities and crime.
It was just such an increase in the social problems attending urban growth that led reformers and philanthropists in England to establish Toynbee Hall the first settlement house in 1884. The settlement model originally distinguished by a commitment on the part of its educated upper and middle-class volunteers to settle in working class communities in order to understand their problems first-hand was imported to the United States in 1886 when Neighborhood Guild was established on New York's lower east side. American settlement houses were in the vanguard of efforts to educate and provide social services for impoverished residents in their neighborhoods through programs such as kindergartens day care hot lunches health clinics visiting nurses camps playgrounds and arts education. In addition the settlements were deeply involved in Progressive-era reform movements advocating improvements in housing public health and sanitation. In 1890 five members of New York's Church Club recommended That this Club undertake a work in the Tenth Ward on the general plan. of Toynbee Hall. Under the leadership of the prominent lawyer and civic reformer Everett P. Wheeler the club founded East Side House in 1891. Wheeler was a founder of the New York Bar Association and served for 17 years as chairman of the executive committee of the New York Civil Service Reform Association. He was also a supporter of the Citizen's Union the Committee of Seventy and the Reform Club. Born in 1840 Wheeler came into the settlement movement relatively late in his career.
A house on East 76th Street at the foot of the East River was rented and outfitted with reading rooms a gymnasium a billiard room and club meeting rooms. The first group of neighborhood residents to utilize the settlement a men's club began meeting in June of 1891. Children's programs a day nursery and women's clubs were added soon after. In 1893 the New York Free Circulating Library contributed books to East Side House and Mr. C. B. Webster funded construction of a settlement library building. In 1904 this library joined the New York Public Library system as its Webster Branch. During the same period East Side House lobbied city government to establish a park on an empty lot in the area resulting in the creation of John Jay Park
In 1902 after several years of fundraising a new settlement building was erected to house programs which included a day nursery music school lectures concerts clubs and classes. To provide swimming and fishing for neighborhood children a section of the East River bank in front of the building was fenced in. At about the same time board member J. P. Morgan agreed to let East Side House use a portion of his estate for summer camping activities. By July 1904 the settlement was able to obtain its own summer camp on Lake Popolopen in Highland Falls-on-the-Hudson New York. Unfortunately this was not a permanent arrangement and for several years the camp site moved from place to place. In 1910 thanks to a generous donation by Mr. and Mrs. William Read a permanent summer home was found at the Stepney Farm in Connecticut.
During the late 1920s rising real estate values and increased rents drove many lower income families away from the upper east side causing the East Side House Board of Managers to debate whether there remained a need for settlement work there. The death of Everett P. Wheeler in 1925 and the subsequent resignation of other board members may have contributed to a 1929 decision to discontinue all programs except the day nursery and to sell the building. But the stock market crash caused the buyer of the property to cancel the agreement and the onset of the depression compelled neighborhood residents to plead for the continuation of settlement programs. Because of the period of inactivity the board and various committees had dwindled in size and the facilities suffered from neglect. Headworker Rosa Gregor and her assistant Kathleen Wegge aided by program staff paid by the W. P. A. kept East Side House open through tireless effort.
By the end of the decade the settlement had recruited new board members recovered financially and expanded its programs modestly. In 1937 the Camp Committee was even able to purchase new property to accommodate more children. During World War II the nursery became associated with the Mayor' Committee for the Wartime Care of Children enabling it to increase its services. In addition a fundraising committee was organized to increase the number of contributors.
During the 1950s the demographics of the East Side House neighborhood changed again with an increase in middle and upper income families. Settlement attendance fell off from year to year and in 1961 the board decided to move the settlement to a new community where it perceived that the agency's services would be more vital. The South Bronx was chosen and in 1963 East Side House opened new administrative offices on Alexander Avenue. The settlement's new community was largely African-American and Puerto Rican and many lived in nearby public housing projects. Working with the New York City Housing Authority East Side House established program facilities in several NYCHA buildings. Programs included senior citizen activities summer camp recreation and athletics day nursery and homemaking instruction. During the next 30 years East Side House steadily expanded its programs as the South Bronx entered into a period of increasing poverty drug addiction and crime. Today the settlement provides services to more than 10 000 South Bronx residents each year. Head Start day care teen employment and education athletics and clubs and meals for senior citizens are a few of the programs sponsored.