Our History

Remembering The Past...Envisioning The Future

The vision of promoting social justice through the establishment of Settlements in poor neighborhoods originated in England in the 1880s. The idea inspired social reformers and philanthropists in the United States to create Settlement Houses to help immigrants adjust and thrive in their new communities.

Grand St. Settlement was founded by such a group. In 1916, Samuel Null (a recent Fordham Law graduate), and a group of other young men who had once worked or belonged to Madison House (the present Hamilton-Madison House), embraced the concept of helping their neighbors help themselves.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the Settlement's main services were provided through clubs for girls and boys and young men and women. These clubs featured art, sewing, and dance. The Settlement also operated a kindergarten for the children of working parents and household management and child-rearing programs for parents.

In 1925, Camp Moodna in Orange County was donated to Grand St. Settlement, offering a respite location for working girls who needed a break from the summer heat. Later years gave way to summer day camps for both boys and girls. One of the first tenant unions was also organized by the Grand St. Settlement.

By the 1930s, the agency had expanded its services, and professionals began replacing volunteers on staff. Core programs in the late 1930s and during the 1940s included childcare, daycare, and health and personal services.

Beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, and continuing to the present, the Lower East Side has seen the arrival of new immigrants, mostly from the Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia. As a main provider of social services in the area, Grand St. Settlement has adapted its programs and services to accommodate their needs.