16. Landmarked buildings including the Christodora House provided housing and food for low-income residents
Just a few doors down from the Charlie Parker Residence is the Christodora House, located at 143 Avenue B, which was designed as a settlement house. The settlement movement, which had its roots in the United Kingdom, strived to bring together wealthier and poorer communities. Settlement homes were developed in poor urban areas and were staffed by volunteers from the upper and middle classes in an attempt to alleviate poverty and provide better opportunities for at-risk populations.
The Christodora House opened in 1928 and included services including a gym, theater, and music school, as well as office space and two kitchens. The lowest five of the building’s 16 stories housed all the resources, while the top nine were rented out as residences. However, the cost of maintaining a settlement home, especially during the Great Depression and World War II, proved too much. It was sold to the city in 1948, after which it may have served as a headquarters of the Black Panthers and condominiums for wealthier residents. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, acknowledging the building’s role within the community.
Also on Avenue B, at its intersection with East 8th Street, was the Children’s Aid Society’s Tompkins Square Lodging House for Boys and Industrial School. Built in 1887, the building, also called the Eleventh Ward Lodging House, was a shelter for lower-class boys, many of whom worked as newsboys or shoeshiners. The home was opened about three decades after the founding of the Children’s Aid Society by Charles Loring Brace. At the time, abandoned and orphaned children lived in New York’s slums and on the streets, and Brace opened centers to educate and train children for employment while breaking them from their pasts; though, the program was met with some hesitation from abolitionists and Catholics. The Alphabet City building was designed in part by Calvert Vaux and is the oldest extant Children’s Aid Society building, built in the High Victorian Gothic style.