Landmarks50: Children’s Aid Society, Elizabeth Home for Girls
We continue celebrating Landmarks50 with a look at individual landmarks in our neighborhood. Yesterday we learned about the Children’s Aid Society, Tompkins Square Lodging for Boys and Industrial School. Today we read about the Children’s Aid Society, Elizabeth Home for Girls at 307 East 12th Street, which the LPC designated on March 18, 2008. The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) commissioned the construction of this building, completed 1892, as a refuge for homeless girls.
This building was the only lodging house designed for girls and is one of only a few surviving CAS buildings. Its picturesque façade is significant for its architecture and as an evocation of the working class history of the Lower East Side. The CAS ran the Elizabeth Home in this building until 1930 when it was sold Benjamin Lust, a practitioner of a natural “water cure” for illnesses. In 1946, the Florence Crittendon League purchased the building and used it again as a residence for girls. In 1984, the building changed ownership again and was converted to co-op apartments.
Renowned architect Calvert Vaux designed the structure in a High Victorian Gothic style in brick and sandstone with a Dutch-influenced stepped gable. Vaux was interested in the way architecture could be used to better the lives of unfortunate members of society and devoted much of the last part of his career to this cause. He designed more than a dozen buildings for the CAS in New York, including the West Side Lodging House at Seventh Avenue and 32nd Street (1883, demolished) and the Tompkins Square Lodging House and Industrial School at 8 Street and Avenue B (1885, a designated New York City Landmark).
According to the designation report, The Children’s Aid Society buildings were both domestic and institutional, intended to be, “an ornament to a part of the city the ugliness of which isparticularly in need of some relief. It is a fortunate circumstance that the objects of the Children’s Aid Society require it to undertake its building operations in quarters where, but for its efforts, it is unlikely that there would be any architecture worth looking at or discussing.”
They were usually free-standing structures, with highly varied rooflines that provided visual interest and variety. Vaux believed that, “in any architectural design, the separate groups of forms may be, in themselves, attractive, or the building may be splendid in its general conception of masses, or rich in its varied and charming detail, but it will be defective as an architectural composition if it fails in its sky-line.”
Read more Landmarks50 Off the Grid posts HERE.