It’s difficult to capture all that Greenwich House is and all that it does for the community in just one sentence. Founded as a settlement house in 1902 to help the surrounding immigrant population adapt to life in America, the institution has evolved over the past 120 years to meet the needs of its changing neighborhood. Greenwich House not only offers social and health services but also provides access to renowned arts and music programs. The mission has always been to serve the whole human. “There was something baked into our earliest DNA in which our founders saw that access to music and the arts was not just a “nice to have” but something as essential to the human experience as the most core health and human services we offer,” explained Darren Bloch, Executive Director & CEO, “It’s energizing to do this type of work in what is arguably one of the cultural creative capitals of the world, not just New York City or the country.”
In three different historic buildings in the heart of Greenwich Village, Greenwich House has provided essential community services throughout the most difficult times including the 1918 flu pandemic, the AIDS crisis, and most recently the outbreak of COVID-19. “Our spaces intentionally bring together the community. There is a magic that happens around Greenwich House,” says Bloch. In celebration of the 120th anniversary, Untapped New York Insiders are invited to Greenwich House for a guided tour on January 26th or February 13th. These tours are free for Untapped New York Insiders. Read on to uncover the secrets of this historic New York City establishment:
Explore Greenwich House
1. Founder Mary Simkhovitch was featured in a Wonder Woman comic
Like Diana Prince, Greenwich House founder Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch was a hero to many, and she was featured in a comic book. Simkhovitch was honored with inclusion in the 55th issue of Wonder Woman which was published on July 23, 1952. Her comic-character likeness was featured in the “Wonder Women of History” section which ran throughout the comic’s first year. The three-page comic strip shows Simkhovitch surveying the problems in her neighborhood, fundraising to start Greenwich House, teaching cooking classes, and writing books. You can see the full comic here.
Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch opened Greenwich House on Thanksgiving Day, 1902, at 26 Jones Street. Social reformers like Jacob Riis and the founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney were among the many notable people who served on the first board. The goal was to help the largely immigrant population of the neighborhood adjust to life in America. From the beginning, Greenwich House recognized that the arts are an integral part of living a full and well-balanced life. In addition to providing vocational training, housing, and health and nutrition services, there were music and art lessons, all programs that have continued to flourish over the past 120 years. Adam Welch, Former Director of Greenwich House Pottery, told Untapped New York one of his favorite stories from the early days of Greenwich House is that of an Italian father from the neighborhood telling Simkhovitch, “My children need music as they need bread.”