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Guide to the Recreation Rooms and Settlement collection ARC.088

128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11201
718-222-4111
library@brooklynhistory.org


Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by James Moske

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 22, 2011
English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 An OCR version of this finding aid was made by Sarah Steele in January 2008. The finding aid was entered into Archivists' Toolkit by Matthew Gorham in June 2009. Further revisions were made by Nicholas Pavlik in September 2010.  , September 7, 2010.

Descriptive Summary

 
Creator: Recreation Rooms and Settlement (New York, N.Y.).
Title: Recreation Rooms and Settlement collection
Dates [inclusive]: 1905-1991
Dates [bulk]: Bulk, 1953-1991
Abstract: The Recreation Rooms and Settlement collection documents the work of the settlement, originally established to provide educational and recreational opportunities for Jewish immigrant women, from its early years on the Lower East Side of Manhattan through its recent activity in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Canarsie. While material in the collection spans the period 1905 to 1991, the bulk of the records are from the period 1953 to 1991. The collection includes board of directors minutes and appended administrative reports, bylaws, annual reports, program files, executive director correspondence, flyers, news clippings, photographs, fundraising records, budgets, histories, and brochures.
Quantity: 1.67 Linear feet in four manuscript boxes.
Text [Box]: ARC.088 1 of 4
Text [Box]: ARC.088 3 of 4
Text [Box]: ARC.088 2 of 4
Mixed materials [Box]: ARC.088 4 of 4
Call Phrase: ARC.088
Sponsor: Original processing for this collection was funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Subsequent processing was funded by the project, "Uncovering the Secrets of Brooklyn's 19th Century Past: Creation to Consolidation," funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources, with additional support from The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

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Historical Note

During the late 1800s, the United States experienced a dramatic increase in immigration, as millions of people entered the country seeking new opportunities and economic advancement. Among these immigrants were tens of thousands of European Jews, many of whom settled on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The dense concentration of this new population exacerbated many urban problems that had long faced the city: poor housing, inadequate health care, lack of educational opportunities, crime, and unemployment all became more pronounced.

Earlier in the 19th century, numerous Jewish philanthropic and social service organizations had been established in New York to address the needs and problems of the city's Jewish population. Institutions such as The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, United Hebrew Charities, and the Young Men's Hebrew Association offered Jewish immigrants financial assistance, job-training, language instruction, acculturation programs, athletic facilities, and other services. But the dramatic growth of the Jewish population at the end of the century presented these social welfare institutions and their supporters with many new challenges.

It was just such an increase in the social problems attending urban growth that had led reformers and philanthropists in England to establish Toynbee Hall, the first settlement house. The settlement model, originally distinguished by a commitment on the part of its educated upper and middle-class workers to "settle" in working class communities to understand their problems firsthand, was imported to the United States in 1886. American settlement houses were in the vanguard of efforts to educate and provide social services for impoverished residents in their neighborhoods through programs such as kindergartens, day care, hot lunches, health clinics, visiting nurses, camps, playgrounds, and arts education. In addition, the settlements were deeply involved in Progressive-era reform movements advocating improvements in housing, public health, and sanitation.

While most settlement houses were ostensibly secular institutions whose services were available to all neighbors regardless of creed, many did bear close affiliation with particular religious denominations and some included religious education among their programs. Some Protestant churches, for example, sponsored settlements that combined missionary work with the traditional range of settlement programs. Philanthropists and reformers in New York's Jewish community were impressed by aspects of the settlement model and worked to establish their own settlements. Typically these institutions were open to all their neighbors, but maintained a specific commitment to meet the social and educational needs of the Jewish population.

It was in this context that the council of Jewish Women rented rooms at 79 Orchard Street on Manhattan's Lower East Side during May 1899 (although a few documents suggest May 1898 as the founding date) to provide educational and recreational opportunities for Jewish immigrant women. Encouraged by Felix Adler, leader of the Ethical Culture society who helped to establish several settlement houses, the Council soon incorporated "Recreation Rooms and Settlement" with Mrs. Cyrus Sulzberger as its first board president. Other early board members included Mrs. Aaron Kohn, Mrs. Isidor Straus, Mrs. Daniel Guggenheim and Mrs. Jacob H. Schiff. Some of these women or their husbands were prominent on the boards of other settlements such as Educational Alliance and Henry Street Settlement.

The first "Head Worker" of Recreation Rooms and Settlement, Miss Cyd Betteiheim, and her successor Dr. Bertha F. Lubitz, oversaw typical settlement activities such as sewing, cooking and art classes, a circulating library, and mother's meetings. In 1905 the settlement moved to 186-188 Chrystie Street. By this time it had expanded its programs to include an evening "Boy's Brigade" as well as lectures, open debates, and a literary society. The following year the settlement conducted an "Exhibition for the Prevention of Tuberculosis" visited by 6,500 people.

Recreation Rooms and Settlement's first connection to Brooklyn is reported in the Annual Report for 1914 to 1915. Head Worker Gertrude Mautner wrote that "One entire girls' club has left us to become the working group of a small settlement in Brooklyn. A majority of the members of this Club have moved to Brooklyn, and into a neighborhood where they felt that they might bring the influence that had been brought to them in our settlement." (Preliminary research has not shown whether this incipient settlement was ever in fact established.) By that same year, the settlement had expanded its programs to include a visiting nurse service, and Camp Wildwood based at Central Valley, N.Y. on property donated by the Straus family. Additional camping facilities -- Camp Recro and Camp Mikan -- were opened several years later on the grounds of the Palisades Interstate Park.

In 1930, New York City condemned the buildings at 186-188 Chrystie to make room for the proposed Roosevelt Park, and the settlement moved to the former quarters of College Settlement at 84-86 First Street. In this neighborhood the settlement began to work with Italians as well as its traditional Jewish constituency. A 1940 Annual Report also cites the membership of "a single Negro child … and several Albanian Mohammedan families." Programs then included W.P.A. job placement, surplus food ticket distribution, and a health clinic.

During the 1940s and l950s, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) built many public housing projects for low and middle income tenants. An innovative feature of these projects was the inclusion of space for community centers and recreational facilities. At several of its sites NYCHA invited established social service agencies and settlement houses to operate programs in these facilities. Recreation Rooms and Settlement was among them, and in 1950 began its work at the Lillian Wald Houses on Avenue D in Manhattan. Initial activities included a senior citizen center and youth recreation, and would grow to include drug counseling, after school programs, day care, and adult education.

In 1955, NYCHA invited the settlement into its Breukelen Houses site in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Canarsie. At this location the settlement developed a community center, day care, arts and theater programs, and eventually ran a Head Start program. The continuing challenge of working with new populations in the housing projects brought the board to affirm in February 1956 that the settlement "provides the opportunity for all races, colors and creeds represented in the membership of the [Breukelen Houses] project to get acquainted with one another and work together for the good of the community." In 1955 the settlement also moved out of its First Street location (which it rented and later sold to another settlement, Christodora House) and consolidated all programs at its NYCHA sites. During the 1960s, programs would include collaboration with Mobilization for Youth and other government-sponsored anti-poverty programs. The work at the upstate camps continued through this period as well, offering children living in the housing projects an opportunity to get out of the city for several weeks each summer.

From its inception, Recreation Rooms and Settlement had enjoyed the financial support of Jewish philanthropic organizations, a relationship eventually formalized through membership in The Federation of Jewish Philanthropies (FJP). It was also a longstanding member of United Neighborhood Houses (UNH), an umbrella group of New York City settlement houses. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, however, disputes between Recreation Rooms and Settlement administration and FJP and UNH respectively caused the settlement to lose its membership in these organizations. In the course of these disputes, Recreation Rooms and Settlement relinquished control of its Lillian Wald Houses site (which was subsequently operated by another settlement house and FJP member, Educational Alliance). With this change, and having closed its upstate camps for financial reasons during the 1980s, all of the settlement's work was then consolidated in the Canarsie area. In 1994 this included day care, Head Start, senior services, and an affiliated kindergarten and pre-school program at the Starrett City residential complex.

Important figures in the settlement's history include head workers and executive directors Mildred Gutwillig, Bertram Cohen, Rose Miller, and Rahil Goulding. Appointed head worker of the settlement in 1921, Gutwillig held that position (and its later equivalent executive director) until 1953. She then supervised the camp operations and remained active on the board of directors for many years. An obituary lists her among the founding members of United Neighborhood Houses. Bertram Cohen was executive director from 1953 until 1955, and several buildings and recreational areas at Camp Recro and Camp Wildwood were named in his honor. Rose Miller was executive director from 1955 until 1968. Miller had previously served as head worker at Grand Street Settlement and was involved in community organizations such as the Lower Eastside Neighborhoods Association (LENA). She was succeeded by Rahil Goulding in 1968. Goulding had long experience at the settlement, having worked for many years as director of its Breukelen site. She remained as the agency's executive director at the time this collection was processed in 1994.

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Scope and Content Note

The Recreation Rooms and Settlement collection documents the work of the settlement from its early years on the Lower East Side of Manhattan through its recent activity in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Canarsie. While material in the collection spans from 1905 to 1991, the bulk of the records span from 1953 to 1991. Items include minutes of the board of directors and appended administrative reports, bylaws, annual reports, program files, executive director correspondence, flyers, news clippings, photographs, fundraising records, budgets, histories, and brochures. The collection is divided into seven series:

  1. Administration
  2. Executive Director papers
  3. Program sites and activities
  4. Alphabetical subjects
  5. Affiliated organizations
  6. Press clippings
  7. Photographs and 16mm film

These records most heavily document the programs and activities of the settlement in its Lillian Wald Houses and Breukelen Houses sites. The most comprehensive picture of the settlement's day to day activities is provided by the minutes of the board of directors, which often include appended program reports and statistics. The commitment of the settlement to its adopted community in Canarsie is well documented in program files from that site. A subject file on the planning of the Flatlands Industrial Park highlights the role of executive director Rose Miller in public discussion of economic development in the Canarsie area. Records of the "Canarsie Chronicle" Neighborhood History Project from the early 1980s demonstrate a commitment to the preservation of community identity in the neighborhood. The settlement's connection to the Jewish social service tradition is evidenced by correspondence with the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, particularly that of executive director Rahil Goulding. During the 1980s this correspondence includes Goulding's "Trends and Developments" reports, which provide excellent summaries of all areas of the settlement's work in this period.

There are few records of Rahil Goulding's predecessors as executive director in the collection. In fact, documentation from the settlement's founding through the early 1950s is generally thin -- there are just a few annual reports and other items from these years.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Adler, Felix, 1851-1933
  • Berger, Graenum
  • Davis, Gloria
  • Koch, Ed, 1924-

Document Type

  • Administrative records
  • Annual reports
  • Brochures
  • Bylaws (administrative records)
  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Correspondence
  • Fliers (printed matter)
  • Motion pictures (visual works)
  • Negatives (photographic)
  • Photographs

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn Council for Social Planning.
  • Christodora House (Lower East Side, New York, N.Y.).
  • Citizens' Housing and Planning Council (New York, N.Y.). Emergency Committee to Save Public Housing.
  • Citizens' Housing Council of New York.
  • Clara de Hirsch Literary Club (New York, N.Y.).
  • Council of Jewish Women (U.S.).
  • East Side Tenants League (Lower East Side, New York, N.Y).
  • Educational Alliance (New York, N.Y.).
  • Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York.
  • Lower East Side Neighborhood Association (Lower East Side, New York, N.Y.).
  • Mobilization for Youth.
  • National Jewish Welfare Board.
  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society (U.S.).
  • New York (N.Y.). City Planning Commission.
  • New York City Housing Authority.
  • Recreation Rooms and Settlement (New York, N.Y.).
  • Rivington Neighborhood Association (New York, N.Y.).
  • United States. Works Progress Administration.

Subject Topics

  • Charities -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Charities -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Community centers -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community centers -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Jews -- Charities
  • Social settlements -- United States

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Canarsie (New York, N.Y.)
  • Lower East Side (New York, N.Y.)

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the Brooklyn Historical Society. Permission to publish or reproduce must be secured from the repository.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date (if known); Recreation Rooms and Settlement collection, ARC.088, Brooklyn Historical Society.

Other Finding Aids note

An earlier version of this finding aid, containing more information, is available in paper form at the Othmer Library. Please consult library staff for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Rahil Goulding, Executive Director of Recreation Rooms and Settlement, 1994.

Processing Information Note

The collection was processed during November and December of 1994 by James Moske and Holly MacCammon of the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives New York City Settlement House Records Survey Project, which was funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The finding aid was written by James Moske.

The collection combines the accessions 1994.014 and V1995.001.

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Container List

Series 1: Administration, 1905-1991. 0.5 Linear feet

Scope and Contents

This series contains administrative histories, bylaws, board of directors files, legal and financial records, annual reports, and staff records.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Histories
1957-1990
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws
1905-1965
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Annual Reports and Brochures
1905-1918
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Annual Reports
1940-1972
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Board of Directors, Biographical Information
1912-1990
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Board of Directors, Minutes
1953-1961
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Board of Directors, Minutes
1962-1965
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Board of Directors, Minutes
1966-1969
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Board of Directors, Minutes
1970-1971
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Board of Directors, Minutes
1972-1973
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Board of Directors, Minutes
1981-1987
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Budgets and Financial Reports
1985-1991
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Financial Memos and Correspondence
1959-1977
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Fundraising and Donations
1906-1991
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Proposed Merger with Hebrew Education Society
1989-1990
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Proposed Merger with Hebrew Educational Society
1991
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Real Estate
1921-1948
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Real Estate - Lease and Sale of Property to Christodora House
1955-1958
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Staff Profiles, Manual and Organization Charts
1956-1962

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Series 2: Executive Director Papers, 1953-1991. 0.19 Linear feet

Scope and Contents

This series includes correspondence, memos, and biographical information pertaining to three of the settlement's executive directors, Margaret Gutwillig, Rose Miller, and Rahil Goulding. The Gutwillig files contain only material created after her tenure as head worker and executive director.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Mildred Gutwillig - Correspondence, Speech, and Obituaries
1953-1986
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Rose Miller - Correspondence, Speech, and Biographical Information
1960-1969
Box: 2 Folder : 11 Rahil Goulding - Incoming Correspondence - Federation of Jewish Philanthropies
1978-1991
Box: 2 Folder : 12 Rahil Goulding - Outgoing Correspondence - Federation of Jewish Philanthropies
1969-1991
Box: 2 Folder : 13 Rahil Goulding - Outgoing Correspondence - Miscellaneous
1979-1989
Box: 2 Folder : 14 Rahil Goulding - Outgoing Correspondence - Miscellaneous
1976-1990

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Series 3: Program Sites and Activities, 1941-1991. 0.32 Linear feet

Scope and Contents

This series contains correspondence, flyers, memos, reports, and clippings documenting the programs and activities of the settlement at its Lillian Wald Houses and Breukelen Houses sites, as well as its camp programs located in upstate New York.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 1 Breukelen Recreation Rooms - Correspondence, Memos, Clippings, and Announcements
1952-1971
Box: 3 Folder : 2 Lillian Wald Recreation Rooms - Lease, Correspondence, Memos, Reports, and Announcements
1949-1979
Box: 3 Folder : 3 Camps - Histories
1941-1967
Box: 3 Folder : 4 Camps - Administration
1947-1981
Box: 3 Folder : 5 Camps - Alumni Events
1960-1970
Box: 3 Folder : 6 Camps - Correspondence
1960-1991
Box: 3 Folder : 7 Camps - Flyers and Brochures
circa 1953-1972
Box: 3 Folder : 8 Camps - Songbooks
circa 1950-1960
Box: 3 Folder : 9 Day care - Correspondence, Reports, and Brochures
circa 1955-1970
Box: 3 Folder : 10 Drug Counseling
1969-1990
Box: 3 Folder : 11 Russian Immigrant Problems
1975-1991
Box: 3 Folder : 12 Senior Citizens
1959-1986
Box: 3 Folder : 13 Theater Programs
1960-1963
Box: 3 Folder : 14 Miscellaneous Program Correspondence and Flyers
circa 1970-1987

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Series 4: Alphabetical Subjects, 1941-1991. 0.25 Linear feet

Scope and Contents

This series contains correspondence, memos, reports, and printed material on special events and issues of concern to the settlement and community that are not addressed by its regular program or administrative functions.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 15 Bailey Memorial

Related Archival Materials note

For additional material see Series 7 - Visual Materials.

1989
Box: 3 Folder : 16 "Canarsie Chronicle" Neighborhood History Project - Oral History Interviews
1981-1982
Box: 3 Folder : 17 "Canarsie Chronicle" Neighborhood History Project - Oral History Interviews
1981-1982
Box: 4 Folder : 1 "Canarsie Chronicle" Neighborhood History Project - Oral History Interviews
1981-1982
Box: 4 Folder : 2 "Canarsie Chronicle" Neighborhood History Project - Research Materials

Related Archival Materials note

For additional material, see Series 7 - Visual Materials

Box: 4 Folder : 3 "Canarsie Chronicle" Neighborhood History Project - Research Materials

Related Archival Materials note

For additional material, see Series 7 - Visual Materials.

Box: 4 Folder : 4 Community Organizations
circa 1950-1968
Box: 4 Folder : 5 Flatlands Industrial Park
1959-1962
Box: 4 Folder : 6 Housing
1941-1954
Box: 4 Folder : 7 Lower East Side Community Corporation
1967-1976
Box: 4 Folder : 8 United Neighborhood Houses
1959-1991
Box: 4 Folder : 9 "What Remains" Exhibit
1982

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Series 5: Affiliated Organizations, 1976-1989. 0.04 Linear feet

Scope and Contents

This series contains administrative records, memos, correspondence, and flyers of the Recreation Rooms and Settlement - Starrett City Early Learning Center, an independently incorporated kindergarten and pre-school program in the Starrett City residential development in Brooklyn.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 10 Recreation Rooms and Settlement - Starrett City Early Learning Center - Correspondence, Board Minutes, and Reports
1976-1989

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Series 6: Press Clippings, 1949-1989. 0.06 Linear feet

Scope and Contents

This series contains news clippings about settlement activities, programs, and administration.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 11 Press Clippings
1949-1989
Box: 4 Folder : 12 Press Clippings
1949-1989

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Series 7: Photographs and 16mm Film, circa 1950-1989. 0.23 Linear feet

Scope and Contents

This series contains photographs, negatives, and a 16mm film documenting settlement programs and program participants, staff, and special events. The 16mm film is housed separately from the rest of the collection.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 13 Bailey Memorial - Photographs
1989
Box: 4 Folder : 13 "Canarsie Chronicle" Neighborhood History Project - Photographs
circa 1981-1982
Box: 4 Folder : 13 Luke Bragg show at Breukelen Recreation Rooms and Settlement, May 11, 1971 - Photographs
1971
Box: 4 Folder : 14 Recreation Rooms and Settlement Programs, Staff, and Activities - Photographs and Negatives
circa 1950-1989
Reel: WCBS Television Community Affairs - "Camp Wildwood" WCBS Television Community Affairs, "Camp Wildwood" 16mm Film

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