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Hamilton Madison House

Hamilton-Madison House, New York City


Note:  This entry augments the entry entitled: “Madison House: Tops In Every Respect.”  It begins with a couple of paragraphs from the agency’s web site and it concludes with two brief excerpts from the HANDBOOK OF SETTLEMENTS, a survey of the nation’s settlement houses undertaken in 1910 by two social welfare pioneers: Robert Archey Woods and Albert J. Kennedy.


A Doorway into Hamilton-Madison House
A Doorway into Hamilton-Madison House

Introduction: Hamilton-Madison House has been servicing the residents of Manhattan’s Lower East Side since 1898. During the nineteenth and early twentieth century, thousands of European immigrants settled in the crowded tenements of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, including the Two Bridges neighborhood. Due to the extreme influx in population, lack of infrastructure and government assistance during this time, the quality of life in the impoverished neighborhood was incredibly dismal and disease spread rampantly among immigrants.

Hamilton-Madison House
Hamilton-Madison House

As conditions within the immigrant slums worsened at the turn of the century, middle-class social reformers lobbied for public assistance for the poor. Settlement houses were established that offered area residents with social services and educational programs. Among the Lower East Side settlement houses were the Madison House of the Down Town Ethical Society and the Henry Street Settlement on Hamilton Street.

Madison House was founded by two young German Jews in 1898 to fight some of the serious problems of the day. Hamilton House was established in 1902 to help the new Italian immigrants who were suffering from Tuberculosis. Over the twentieth century, this low-income, immigrant community continued to evolve from a population that was Jewish and Italian to Irish, Dominican, African-American and, finally, Chinese. As waves of immigrants shifted from European to Latino and then Asian, both Hamilton House and Madison House continued to change to meet the needs of their individual communities and in 1954 joined forces to become the Hamilton-Madison House. In 1997, Hamilton-Madison House centralized most of its mental health services in the new Two Bridges Tower on South Street.

History: This portion of the entry is copied from the HANDBOOK OF SETTLEMENTS, a national survey of settlements published in 1911 by The Russell Sage Foundation of New York. This collection of detailed information about settlements operating in 1910 was collected, organized and written by two settlement pioneers: Robert Archey Woods and Albert J. Kennedy. The Handbook contains a description of the Down Town Ethical Society, founded in 1898 and located at 216 Madison Street, and later was named Madison House.  There is also a short description of Hamilton House, established in 1902 and located on Hamilton Street in the Cherry Hill section of the Lower East Side. These excerpts are an extraordinary record of social welfare history because they describes in some detail the early years of development of programs and activities conducted by the forerunners of today’s Hamilton Madison House.

Down Town Ethical Soc1ety
216 Madison Street (1910-)

Established December 1898, by a group of twelve young men, one time members of the Nurses’ and the University settlements, with the moral and financial assistance of the Society for Ethical Culture. “Two primary purposes have actuated the society in its work. One is the thorough Americanization of the residents of the lower East Side, and especially of the younger generation. The other is the strengthening of the home ties between immigrant parents and American-bred children, and the ennobling of the family life by reconciling the differences due to change in social and economic environment. It (the society) stands for the supremacy of the moral life and tries to emphasize the moral aspects of the complex problems with which the East Side is grappling. In a quarter where the lack of necessary creature comforts is so tremendous, there is great danger of underestimating the importance of moral demands.”

Neighborhood. The lower East Side. The people are Jews.

Hamilton-Madison House
Hamilton-Madison House

Activities. Helped to arouse the public demand which secured Seward Park and other recreation centers; called attention to conditions which led to the organization of the Committee of Fifteen; helped create the Federation of Boys’ Clubs and the East Side Civic Club; initiated a successful movement to remove an unfit judge from the Bench; rendered effective service in several political campaigns for cleaner and better civic life; and co-operates with movements for the educational, social and economic betterment of its neighborhood.

Maintains bank (conducted by club members); sewing school; many clubs for various purposes. There is much athletic work and sport. The clubs entertain their parents from time to time. Monthly talks for adults in Yiddish, and much instruction, formal and informal, on the moral problems of the home and neighborhood. Monthly dances; working woman’s forum, etc. Club representatives in co-operation with the leaders govern the house. The expenses of the social features are largely defrayed by club members. Summer Work.—Children go to Felicia, the Fresh Air home of the Young Men’s Union of the Society for Ethical Culture; boys’ camp at Highland Falls, “Camp Astra” (self-supporting); girls’ camp, a unique “Street Car Colony” composed of abandoned street cars, called Camp Moodna (self-supporting).

Former Locations. 232 Madison St., 1898-1900; 310 Madison St., 1900-1904; 300 Madison St., 1904-1910.

Residents. Men 2. Volunteers. Women 11, men 11. Head Resident. Henry Moskowitz, 1898-.

Literature. Authorized Statements. Statements 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908. See also: Files of joo Madison, the “Newsletter of the Clubs and Classes.” Published by the Board of Delegates. Vol. I, No. 1; Vol. II, No. 1; Vol. Ill, No. 1, Jan., 1907; Vol. IV, No. 1, Jan., 1909; Vol. V, No. 1, Nov., 1909.

Hamilton House — 15 Hamilton Street (1902). Boys’ Camp, Palisades on Hudson River

Established December, 1901, by Pearl Underwood (Mrs. John H. Denison) “to keep the girls off the street.” Aims: “The vital need which Hamilton House seeks to fill is that of an ‘open house’ to which the children of the neighborhood may come and in which they may have a sense of proprietorship.” Incorporated June 17, 1902.

Neighborhood. The lower East Side in the Cherry Hill district, sometimes called “New York’s most wicked neighborhood.” The quarter is built up with great tenements and is highly congested. The neighbors are Irish and Italian.

Maintains day nursery; classes in sewing, cooking, gymnastics, and numerous social clubs. The men’s club, organized in the settlement, has now its own clubhouse on Cherry Street, and is a vigorous influence in the district. Summer Work.—Boys’ camp and vacations in co-operation with Fresh Air agencies.

Former Location. 32 Hamilton St., 1901-1902.

Workers. Women 2, men 2 (none in winter). Head Worker. Louise Worthington (Resident Nov., 1902-June, 1905, and occasionally since).

Literature. Authorized Statements. Occasional pamphlets. See: Hamilton House. Charities, ix : 146 (Aug. 9, 1902) — Another Neighborhood House. Commons, Sept., 1902, p. 15.

For more information about the programs and services of Hamilton Madison House, visit their web site: