Cover Image: The House on Henry Street

The House on Henry Street

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Member Reviews

If you have ever visited the Orchard Street Immigrant Museum in New York City, you will want to read this book. 26-year-old, nurse Lillian Wald had money, and yet she moved into a tenement and created the Henry Street Settlement. Reading this book will add to the knowledge of this important establishment that still is important to the community.
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The story didn't give enough  of a human touch.  It was more in a narrative form..  Although based on the life of Lillian Wald and the things she accomplished during the 1900's was nothing short of a miracle, it just wasn't emotional enough and I wish we learned more of the families that lived in the settlement district of the lower East Side.
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The House on Henry Street by Ellen M. Snyder-Grenier is a deeply-researched and historical look at New York's Henry Street Settlement, a landmark and continuing social service effort that impacts tens of thousands of people each year, offering everything from health care services to community education and arts. The book goes into depth about the people who have been involved in the settlement, as well as the many challenges it has faced and overcome. 

Like a lot of niche historical books, I've an idea that New Yorkers would get a lot more out of this book. As someone from outside the area, I found the local stories and details interesting, but not entirely engaging other than from a purely historical point.

The author did a terrific job of storytelling, and used everything from historical records to narrative to bring history alive and also show the growth and need for a place like the Henry Street Settlement. Overall this was a fascinating look at a social experiment that seems to be working, and an interesting history of that experiment and the place it took place.

This review is based on an advance copy read.
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A detailed and meticulously researched history of the Henry Street Settlement in New York, from its inception under the auspices of nurse Lillian Wald right up to the present day. It’s a fascinating story indeed, and an insightful and illuminating work of social history.
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This book is utterly captivating and I could not put it down.

The author deftly weaves together a beautiful and sweeping narrative of how the House on Henry Street came into being after its founder, Lillian Ward, determined that there had to be a way to help the city's most vulnerable populations in need of the most care and services. It began in March of 1893, when a young girl came to Ward for help, the girl's mother was dying. She'd just given birth, but the doctor had abandoned the woman when she could not pay the fee for his services. It was this pivotal moment when twenty-six year old Lillian Ward, a nurse, decided to act. Through her determination, commitment to the poor, and generous benefactors, she was able to establish the Henry Street Settlement, an organization that still exists to this very day. Along the way we see how the settlement responded during times of crisis - the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic, the rise of violence, drug use, and homelessness in the 70s and 80s, and providing relief during the Great Depression. We also see how the Settlement fought on behalf of those the many they served, including immigrants and the working poor who had very little support.

The book is incredibly well-researched and truly a love letter to this place that has stood the test of time, constantly advocating for those who could not do so for themselves. I knew nothing about these settlement homes prior to reading this, and even have to admit that when I first requested the book I misread the title, substituting tenement for settlement. I am not sure why my brain did that, but it did. So, I was surprised by the content, but yet still engrossed immediately in the story. The idea of creating these settlement homes began in the 1890s and through that decade and the next Progressive-minded folks pushed to create these homes that would become so vital for the neighborhoods surrounding them. The author makes many references to Jane Addams and her founding of Hull House in Chicago, another topic I plan to explore further.

The book is divided into three sections that cover various important points in the life of the settlement. It is difficult to even choose a favorite portion of the book, though I suppose I am a little partial to the early days as Wald and her staff worked tirelessly on behalf of those they served. It is almost baffling to me that something like this could have been founded and thrived in the very late 1800s/early 1900s, yet we cant seem to organize quite on this level or with this ease of access today. This specific settlement house still does, but I mean on this level in other cities. As a teacher I routinely see how fractured so many services are and how many different organizations provide a myriad of services to our students in need. But what the Henry Street house did so perfectly from the start was to manage these services from one main organization. Since then certain services have been turned over to other agencies, but the majority remain with the place where they began. At the time of its funding, Wald and her team focused on four areas in which they could best serve the community: nursing, civic work, social work, and country work. There were arts programs including classes in art mediums like pottery, dance classes, and a theatre that has operated nearly the entire time the settlement has been in existence. The facilities offered (or still offer today) an on-site residence, daycare, access to health care, food, and clothing (including sewing lessons still offered today).

There's still so much more, but I don't know that I can actually do this book justice.

Highly recommended.
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The House on Henry Street by Ellen Snyder-Grenier is a meticulously detailed history of the Henry House settlement on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan. The book provides invaluable insight to the settlement home movement in the United States. The settlement home movement developed during the Progressive era widely recognized as occurring between the 1890s-1910s as a period when reform of social, economic, and to a degree, political institutions became commonplace. The settlement home movement, as Snyder-Grenier demonstrates provided a springboard for educated women in an era when paid employment proved to be limited. Reformers such as Lillian Wald, also a trained nurse, launched the settlement home movement in New York while others like Jane Addams focused efforts in Chicago.

The beauty of this book is that covers three major periods in the development of the Henry Street settlement home from its inception in 1895-1930s when the reform movement was at its zenith to the period from the 1930s-1960s and finally from the 1960s-present. The author does justice to all three periods, though it is the founding and development of the Henry Street House that I found most edifying. Interestingly, the settlement home itself was spurred on by Wald’s dedicated work as a nurse to local residents of the Lower Eastside. The Progressive era period was one in which settlement workers like Wald and her staff were greatly needed as systemic social problems such as sanitation, overcrowding, and exploitative labor plagued the Eastside immigrants not unlike the dire situations many immigrants currently face in underfunded neighborhoods. Prior to reading this book, though I knew the general contours of the Progressive era and was well-acquainted with the Hull House efforts, I was unaware of the four prong plan involving nursing, social work, country work (outdoor activities), and civic work. I found the foci on nursing and country work fascinating and critical to the support of immigrant and Eastsiders throughout the decades. The other aspect that was unknown to me was the focus on the arts. The arts coming out of Henry House intersected with the outpouring of the arts as a result of the WPA during the New Deal. Wald’s successor Helen Hall proved as equally vital to the development of Henry Street as did its founder. And, only when the professionalization of social work occurred did administration of settlement homes shift into decidedly male hands. This book would be invaluable to anyone researching the settlement home movement and is accessible enough to be a resource useful for high school and college students researching this subject.
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A fascinating story of Henry Street. It's well written, engrossing and I loved what I read.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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What an interesting look at the birth and continual influence of Henry Street Settlement. I honestly had no idea of the existence of this area of New York City, and had even less knowledge of the impact on modern society. Without Lillian Wald, her grit, her determination, and without the backing she initially received from financier/philanthropist Jacob Schiff the world would be a much different place. Lillian created a social change and a haven of environment for lower class citizens, including immigrants and black residents who struggled to make ends meet. She gave them hope, and assistance with day cares, nursing, places to shelter, food, clothing - with her help, they were able to help themselves and improve their lives. As the years passed, Lillian and those who followed fought for some many rights and freedoms for all people - whether they were immigrants, lower class, uneducated; all women, men, children included. 

This is  a hard book to sit and read in one sitting - it is full of dates, historical figures and events; some I knew, some, I did not. It is informative, rather than entertaining, and not a book I would have picked up to read on my own. I am glad I saw the description and requested a copy to read in advance - it is a book of history, but more, it is a book of the power of human connection and how just one person can set into motion a chain of events that can and will change lives for future generations. It is a book of hard times befalling so many, but how people can rise up and accomplish greatness when given the smallest of opportunities.
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A remarkable  look at the  microcosm of the Lower East side culture over the last century. Henry House began as a settlement house, spearheaded by Lillian Weld. The author looks at the progress and challenges facing the center through the decades. The evolution projects the larger history of changes and the transformation of New York City. This book is an important piece of history for culture, immigration, social movements, and social history.
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A historical look at the Henry Street settlement in the Lower East Side. I was very interested in reading about how this settlement was able to continue it's community over the course of many years as they took on many different issues, such as immigrants, poverty, homelessness and the AIDS epidemic. I see it as a how to in creating and sustaining future communities!
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If your grandparents or great grandparents were immigrants this is a book that you'll feel personally. And if they lived on the Lower East Side, it is like reading a piece of your own history. Moreover, it's very readable and includes a lot of juicy tidbits on the various personalities that were running the settlement homes. I found it simply fascinating.
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A fascinating look at this iconic Henry Street settlement.I have relatives who long ago lived on the lower east side who tod us many stories about their lives there.This was acwobderf historical look at this building the people the stories the lives that grew there.Highky recommend this book will be giving it as a gift to people whose lives were touched by this area,
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I absolutely love history and I love old houses. This book was right up my alley. This was perfect!!
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