Bennett School for Girls

When people think of New York City colleges, chances are Columbia University or New York University are among the first educational spaces to come to mind. New York City has dozens of colleges and universities across the five boroughs, but many of these institutions for higher learning can attribute their success to the models and innovations of now-defunct colleges and universities. Some closed just a few years ago, while others shuttered a century ago or longer, though all played a role in shaping the culture of neighborhoods and the opportunities for young New Yorkers. Here is Untapped New York’s guide to the lost colleges and universities (and art schools) of New York City, from Finch College to the National Shakespeare Conservatory.

1. Grand Central School of Art

Grand Central School of Art Gallery with fountain
The Grand Central Art Galleries and School of Art in 1923. Image in public domain from the 1923 opening exhibition catalog, from the New York Art Resources Consortium and contributed by the Frick Art Reference Library.

Though not a traditional college or university, the Grand Central School of Art was an art school at none other than Grand Central Terminal. The school, which established the Grand Central Art Galleries, was founded by John Singer Sargent, Edmund Greacen, and Walter Leighton Clark. Daniel Chester French, who designed the statue of Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial, served as a co-director. The school was on the seventh floor of the terminal’s east wing, and at its peak, it was one of the largest art schools in the country, attracting about 900 students each year.

Perhaps the school’s most prominent instructor was Arshile Gorky, an Armenian-American painter who was one of the leaders of the Abstract Expressionism movement. The school, which had a summer session in Eastport, Maine, was open for over 20 years before closing in 1944. The Galleries, though, were active until 1994, moving to the Biltmore Hotel in 1958. Famous alumni of the school included American painter Norman Rockwell, abstract expressionist artist Willem de Kooning, and comic book illustrator Bob Kane.