2. Rutgers Female College

Rutgers Female College, 1885. Courtesy of NY Public Library Digital Collections.

Rutgers Female Institute was New York City’s first institution of higher education for women, opening in 1839 on Madison Street on the Lower East Side. The school offered a one-year course of study at the higher education level along with classes for younger students. The school was named for Henry Rutgers, a Revolutionary War hero who lived in what would become the college (he also names New Jersey’s Rutgers University). In 1860, the institute moved further uptown to 487-491 Fifth Avenue in a property built in 1856 as the “House of Mansions.” In 1867, what was then Rutgers Female Institute changed to Rutgers Female College, with a selection of four-year bachelor of arts degrees.

Around the time of its name change, the college decided to build a larger campus near Columbia University, as designed by the esteemed duo Olmsted & Vaux. The college opened a Harlem branch in 1869, which shut down just three years later, though the larger campus was never completed due to financial issues and poor oversight. The school endured additional financial scandals in the 1890s, shortly after women’s schools like Barnard College and Normal College (now Hunter College) opened. In its final move, the college relocated to 54-58 West 55th Street in 1882, but it closed by 1895. All of the original buildings are gone and have been replaced by public housing or commercial properties.