Records of a social settlement founded in 1891 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan by The King's Daughters, an organization of Episcopal church women, and Jacob A. Riis. Incorporated in 1898 as The King's Daughters Settlement, the institution was rededicated as Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement in 1901. The records include annual reports, administrative correspondence, financial documents, membership lists, minutes, news clippings, photographs, and publications. They document the settlement from its origins in the benevolent work of The King's Daughters and Jacob A. Riis during the 1890s, to its activities a century later providing social services to public housing residents in Queens. The records offer a unique view of the first wave of the settlement house movement in America, and document social conditions, demographic change, philanthropy and social welfare programs, as well as providing insight on the careers of such major Progressive-era reform figures as Jacob A. Riis and Theodore Roosevelt.
Biographical/historical: During the late 1880s "The King's Daughters," an organization of Protestant Episcopal churchwomen, began missionary and benevolent work on New York's Lower East Side by distributing flowers to sick members of working class families. In 1890 The King's Daughters came into contact with prominent journalist and reformer Jacob A. Riis (1849-1914). Disturbed by the inadequacy of health care for immigrants, Riis inspired The King's Daughters to aid Board of Health doctors caring for the ill on the Lower East Side. Riis then continued to support The King's Daughters (later re-named the Tenement House Committee of the King's Daughters and Sons) as they broadened their efforts to improve social conditions by sponsoring a fresh air camp, kindergarten, sewing classes, mothers clubs and a penny provident bank. These activities were organized from rented rooms on Madison Street until 1897, when larger quarters were found at 48 Henry Street. A year later "King's Daughter's Settlement" was formally incorporated. Prominent supporters of the institution, which was re-dedicated in 1901 as "Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement," included Episcopal Bishop Henry Codman Potter, and Riis's personal friend Theodore Roosevelt. Riis himself continued his association with the settlement until his death in 1914. His widow, Mary Phillip Riis, and his son, Roger William Riis maintained the family connection for decades through their membership on the settlement's Board of Managers.
Under the leadership of such early Head Workers as Charlotte A. Waterbury, Eleanor J. Crawford, Alice C. Mayer, and Helen H. Jessup, settlement programs were expanded through the 1920s to include athletics, dramatics, lectures, citizenship classes, and the sponsorship of a neighborhood association. During the depression years of the 1930s the settlement's varied recreational, cultural and educational programs were continued with the assistance of staff paid by the federal Works Progress Administration. In 1942 the settlement began an innovative collaboration with the city Board of Education to provide social services to the growing African-American community in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Soon after, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) invited Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement to operate community centers in several low-income housing projects, including Marcy Houses, Brooklyn (1949); Queensbridge Houses, Queens (1950); Red Hook Houses, Brooklyn (1951); and Stephen Foster Houses, Harlem (1952). Programs at these sites included counseling, senior citizen groups, summer camping, arts and crafts, athletics, and day care. During this same period activities at Henry Street were curtailed, and eventually discontinued. The old settlement building was sold in 1952. Over the next several decades Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement concentrated all of its efforts at Queensbridge and Red Hook Houses, developing innovative programs in drug counseling, mental health and consumer protection. During the 1990s the settlement consolidated entirely at Queensbridge, where programs included meals for senior citizens, youth counseling, tutoring and educational enrichment, athletics, and summer camp.