Henry Street Settlement gets state boost for National Register of Historic Places nomination

The original Henry Street Settlement at 265 Henry St. on the Lower East Side. (Photo via NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project)

The Lower East Side’s Henry Street Settlement earned further this week toward recognition of its National Register nomination and its founder’s important place in local LGBT history.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation received $25,000 in grant funding, made possible under the National Park Service’s Underrepresented Community Grants Program. 

“This support is helping build the public understanding of the significant contributions and influence of the LGBT community that up until now has largely been invisible,” said State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. “Recognizing the LGBT connection with the Henry Street Settlement’s National Register nomination will ensure that this history is protected, preserved and promoted for future generations to explore the diversity represented by this site.”

Katie Vogel, who serves as public historian for the Henry Street Settlement, said the funds will be used “to update our National Register listing to reflect the important and little-known role that Henry Street founder Lillian Wald played in New York City queer history.”

Lillian Wald as a young nurse in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Wald created the Henry Street Settlement in 1893 primarily as a public health facility providing free or low-cost healthcare for tenement residents in the Lower East Side. Over the next 40 years, she had grown the Settlement into the biggest health care provider in the neighborhood, staffed by 265 nurses that cared for more than 100,000 patients.

According to the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, Wald was known to have had relationships with other women who lived at the Settlement, as well as with various wealthy patrons in New York at the time. Her relationships and career, the state Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Department noted, “separated her from the traditional household roles and norms expected of middle-class women at that time.”

“Building on our work to increase representation of LGBT people on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places, we are excited to move forward with an amendment to the Henry Street Settlement’s nomination,” said Amanda Davis, project manager for the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. “Our work will acknowledge the same-sex relationships that personally and professional shaped its founder, Lillian Wald.”

The state office first received the grant for the Henry Street Settlement recognition in 2014 a $49,999 federal grant through the state Parks Department to launch its National Register program. That was followed by a second grant of the same value in 2016, and an additional $25,000 in 2019.

The original Henry Street Settlement is at 265 Henry St., where the settlement has administrative offices. The nonprofit continues its mission to this day out of headquarters at 301 Henry St., where it offers social services and arts programs in addition to health care.

For more information, visit henrystreet.org.