Our Founding

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House was founded in 1894 by the Alumnae Association of Normal College (now known as Hunter College of the City University of New York) as a free kindergarten for the children of indigent immigrants. Since then, we have remained at the forefront of community advocacy and social and educational change. We have long been a center of community leadership in addressing such issues as affordable housing, poor working conditions, health care, hunger, early childhood education, poverty, unemployment, homelessness, juvenile delinquency, crime prevention and long-term care for older adults.

A History of Innovation

  • Community’s First Free Kindergarten (1894)
  • Mayor’s Committee on Aliens asks us to teach English (1917)
  • Headquarters for the League of Women Voters (1919)
  • Building constructed as the largest settlement house in the world (1928)
  • Lunch served to 600 school children during depression (1930s)
  • Full-day childcare begins as war-time measure (1943)
  • Lenox Hill Friendship Club forms for elderly neighbors (1946)
  • Lenox Hill Housing Service established to provide relocation advice and aid to thousands facing eviction (1955)
  • NYC’s first Meals-on-Wheels program (1964)
  • Launch of one of three model preschool programs in NYC (1965)
  • Manhattan’s only Senior Center open 7 days a week (70th Street, 1975)
  • Nation’s first Neighborhood Watch (1978)
  • Homeless Outreach Project Formed (1985)
  • First new Manhattan Senior Center in 20 years (Saint Peter’s, 2001)
  • Project STAR Caregivers Program Launched (2001)
  • Creation of civil legal services program in multiservice, community-based organization (2004)
  • Caregivers Legal Support Center launched (2005)
  • East Side Case Management Consortium formed (2007)

What is a Settlement House?

The settlement movement began in London in the late 19th century as members of England high society became increasingly concerned with the welfare of the lower classes. Settlement houses were founded for the purpose of providing food and shelter for these local people as well as offering opportunities to pursue basic and higher education. The movement combated juvenile delinquency by providing young children with a place to play and learn. Most houses offered a wide variety of classes in music, art and theater as well as in trade and vocational training.





At the same time that houses began springing up across England, the settlement movement was taking hold of cities across the United States. In 1886, the first Settlement House was founded on New York City's Lower East Side. Over the next decade, Jane Addams founded Hull House in Chicago, and other civic leaders established settlement houses throughout New York City and across the nation, including Lenox Hill Neighborhood House in 1894. These houses were founded on the philosophy of upward mobility. They worked to assist immigrants in achieving the “American dream” and combat the horrible living conditions of city slums

Today, settlement houses remain community-focused organizations, often providing a wide range of services for all ages. Most often, settlements focus on senior programs, early education, as well as youth prevention and intervention. These houses are run by professional employees who fully understand the needs of the community.

For more information about Settlement Houses, click here.