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Baden Street Settlement 1901-1951

Baden    Street


Fiftieth Anniversary


Serving Rochester for Fifty Years

Two full generations  have  gone  by since  the  objectives   of  the Baden Street Settlement were stated  in its Certificate of Incorporation.  Enthusiastic and  zealous  pioneers  in  its  creation,  Mrs. Katz  and  Mrs.  Garson  solicited  the  original  funds,  thenBaden St. Children and Early Ford[View Image]
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Baden St. Children and Early Ford

contributed a life time of interest  and  work on its  behalf.

Although  the Settlement  is a non-sectarian, neighborhood center,  it had its beginnings  in the work of women of the B’rith  Kodesh Temple on Gibbs Street. Here groups  of young women of foreign  birth came to learn  kitchen  gardening,  sewing  and  primary  education. When it was deemed  best  to bring  this instruction into  the  neighborhood in which these young women lived, it was decided  that  a small settlement house would  be the  most  effective  means  of teaching  housekeeping  and  attractive home making.  The  location  selected  was that  from  which  the girls came–the section of the city north  of the railroad  extending  from Clinton  Avenue  to  Hudson  Avenue,  and  perhaps  a  half  mile  further north.

So successful  were the efforts of Mrs. Katz and  Mrs. Garson that  by the  end  of  the  organization’s  first  year  a  membership   of 150  civic­ minded  citizens had  been  procured. A small  house  was rented  at 152 Baden  Street  and  the name “The Social Settlement  of Rochester” was selected.  New plumbing was  installed,  the  walls  were  repapered, the floors were  painted , and  neat  muslin  curtains  were hung  at  the  windows. The  Settlement  was a reality.

When, a year later, in May, 1902, the house was purchased,  there was a registration of about three hundred girls, taught by sixty volunteer teachers.  There were classes in plain  sewing,  shirtwaist making,  darning,  hemstitching, crocheting,  embroidery,  singing  and  basketry.  Eve­ning groups provided social life with a Sunshine Club, and the more intellectual pusuits were carried on in two Shakespeare clubs,  a Cur­rent  Topics  course  and  German  clubs.

The  enthusiastic  response of the neighborhood  to  the  Settlement House  decided its directors  and friends in the building of an Assembly Hall  in the rear  of the House. When it was completed  in 1904, social and athletic clubs for the boys in the neighborhood were organized alongside  those that had  been operating for the girls. Many new activi­ties for the benefit of the neighborhood could now be added.  An infor­mal kindergarten was instituted, a library  opened, a Penny  Provident Bank established and a Loan Art Gallery for homes in the neighborhood started. The basement of the Assembly Hall was equipped with shower, tub  and spray  baths for the daily u se of the women and children.  Two evenings a week were set aside for  baths for men and  boys. This  bath service was continued  until public  baths were established  in the neigh­borhood in 1908. This was done primarily  through  the efforts of the Settlement  Board  in appealing  to the City.Classes in Sewing, Stitching and Embroidery[View Image]
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Classes in Sewing, Stitching and Embroidery

While these social and educational activities were growing, the Settle­ment was not unmindful of the health needs of the neighborhood. When the city Health  Bureau  established four milk stations  in the city, direc­tors of the Settlement immediately offered  part  of the House  for such a service. On July 4th a milk station was, therefore, opened with a nurse in charge to weigh the babies and instruct their mothers.  It soon became evident that the mothers of the neighborhood needed advice and instruction in the care of both sick and well babies.  With the Board of the Settlement providing the funds, a professional nurse was hired.  A volunteer nurse gave her time two days a week, visiting the homes of the ill and performing both nursing service and giving instruction in the care of the patients.  It was actually three years later, inn 1908, that the Baden Street Dispensary had its beginnings.  A small room in the Settlement House was equipped as a Dispensary through the generosity of friends and local business firms. Here a general clinic and ear, nose and throat clinics were held under the supervision of competent physicians.

Another of the humanitarian activities that was organized to meet a great need in the neighborhood was the Day Nursery.  Many of the women in the area had to work to contribute toward the support of their families while others who were ill had no one to look after their children during the day.  In 1909, as a memorial gift, the six room cottage at 13 Vienna Street was purchased by a Rochester family transformed into a Nursery, and given to the Settlement.  It opened with an enrollment of f15 children who were cared for by a practical nurse.  Baths, regular meals, naps and periods of play were provided for the nominal fee of five cents a day.

In the meantime, the success of the medical and special clinics that were being held in a room at the Settlement House proved the need not only for a larger dispensary, but also for a resident nurse who would attend the clinics and make the necessary follow-up visits to the homes of patients.  In 1910, the property at 160 Baden Street was purchased by the Board, redecorated, furnished and equipped with clinic rooms, quarters for a resident nurse and one room to be used as a music room.  The latter made possible a music schol for the small fee  of 10 cents, could  receive  lessons  from  competent,  volunteer  teachers. When the pressure  of expanding  clinics made it necessary to take over the  music  room, the Settlement  had  already  been able  to help launch the Hochstein Music School  for its neighborhood.

The new Dispensary  opened  with  three  clinics a week, in charge  of  three new physicians  who volunteered their services. Then, as now, the effort  was more to teach  women  how to prevent  disease  than  cure  it. Since  the  clinics  held  were  general  medical  clinics,  patients  who  re­quired  the services of specialists  were taken to the hospital  dispensaries by the attendant nurse.  By 1915,  the Dispensary  staff  numbered  four­teen physicians–many of them specialists. There were now eight  clinics a week, averaging about  450 patients  a month.

During  the period  of unemployment, 1914-1915, directors  of the Set­tlement established an emergency workshop  to create and give employ­ment  to the  unemployed  women in  the area.  The effect of unemploy­ment was seen in the increasing  numbers  of patients  who came to the Dispensary, and it was decided  that  the Board should try to raise funds for  the  erection  of  a  larger  dispensary.  On May 15, 1916, the 15th anniversary  of the founding of the Settlement, the cornerstone  of the new Dispensary building was laid.  On Saturday, January  12, 1917, the two-story, fireproof  brick  building  was opened  to the public  as one of the  most modern  and  best  equipped dispensaries in  Rochester.  When the influenza epidemic of 1917 came along, the Dispensary  was a center for medical and nursing service in the homes where there was influenza, while the Assembly Hall was converted into an emergency  hospital  for men. It is  just  this kind  of ready service at  a time  of need  that has endeared the  Baden  Street  Settlement to its  neighbors.

When  the “Rochester Patriotic  and  Community Fund,”  a forerunner of the Community Chest, invited the Settlement  to become one of its participating philanthropies in 1918,  the  Directors  accepted  immedi­ately. The Settlement  has remained  a Chest  member  since that  time.Eye Doctor Examining Neighborhood Resident[View Image]
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Eye Doctor Examining Neighborhood Resident

Having fulfilled the need for a larger dispensary, the Board now turned toward another  pressing need for expansion–that of  the Nursery. A gift of the prop­erty next to the Nursery was made  to  the  Settlement  in 1923. Then came a gift of a $75,000 modern nursery building to be known as the Belle J. Michaels Nursery. Gifts of additional equipment and supplies were also made by numerous friends of the Settlement.  On December 7, 1924 the Nursery opened its doors, fully equipped and staffed to handle fifty children.  Not only did the children receive good physical care here, but also standardized educational training. Only the addition of a trained social worker to the staff was needed to correlate the training at the school with the effort to raise home standards and render constructive service to the family of which the child was a member.  Not until 1929 was it possible to do this.  In this critical year of unemployment, the demands on the Nursery, the Dispensary and the Settlement House itself were greatly increased.  Obviously, as unemployment rose and incomes fell, more and more members of the neighborhood turned toward the Settlement for help.  In 1930 a total number of 30, 366 visits were made by patients to the Dispensary in its fifteen clinics; 32,940 visits were made to the Settlement House through the various social, educational, and service groups; over 175 children were enrolled during this year in the Belle J. Michaels Nursery.

At this time, and in the years that followed, the Board and workers of the Settlement became acutely aware of the changing population, changing conditions and therefore changing needs in the area. A decision had to be made as to the role the Baden Street Settlement would play in the life of the neighborhood and how it could best meet the human and social needs here.  At its beginning, the population that surrounded the Settlement was largely foreign whites, and activities were arranged to suit such a group. An important factor was the influx of Negroes.  By the end of the war they constituted over 50% of the population in the area. The whites who remained in the area changed in character too.  Of the original foreign-born group, only the older member of the family remained in the area.  Their children, on the other hand, had grown up, married and moved away.  In place of the predominantly Jewish middle class, there now came a mixture of Poles, Italians, Slavic and other nationality groupings in the lower economic bracket.

Now the entire character of the neighborhood had changed until it seemed imperative that the Settlement should be primarily a character building agency.  It would have to carry  on its work not only within the confines of its own buildings and   playground, but  also  in the  homes of its patients  and the parents of the children who came to  the  Agency for the various activities  and serv­ices in the Nursery and Group Work Departments.

The Dispensary, whose work was also  undergoing  changes to meet the new needs in  the area, was renamed the “Baden Street Health Center,” and held the following   clinics: Medical,  Well-Baby,  Dental, X-Ra y, Venereal, Eye, Cancer Prevention, Women’s, Skin , Pre and Post Natal, and  Gynecology.  A staff of a bout 20 visiting physicians and  den­tists conducts the clinics, aided  by two staff nurses and volunteers.  The main  emphasis  has shifted  from  the  usual treatment  of disease  to the early detection, diagnosis and  prevention  of illness–i.e.:  the  mainte­nance  of health  in its  broader  aspects.Woodworking Class[View Image]
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Woodworking Class

In  the period  immediately following the war, the Council  of Social Agencies,  through  its  Department of  Neighborhood Services, encour­aged  all agencies  active  in the area to intensify their  efforts. As part  of the Post-War Community planning process, the Board  embarked on a program  of evaluation and analysis.  Recognizing  its chief  contribution to be the neighborhood organization work through  the medium  of leisure  time-informal education activities  for all age groups–it set out to attract a more highly skilled staff.  A new director was appointed, a case work department established, and overall staff replacements effected.

By 1948, the Group Work program was greatly expanded to involve more than 1,000 individuals of all age levels. This was made possible by a grant from the State Youth Commission through the Department of Neighborhood Services. The basement in the Health Center was remodeled to allow for club rooms which were needed to take care of the increased participation of people in the neighborhood programs.  Through the memorial gift of a friend, the Playground was enlarged, improved and equipped to care more adequately for a greater number of children and teen-agers.  The roof areas of the Nursery were also improved so that there might be more open-air play spots the year’round.  A nursery Supervisor was secured under whose direction a full program could be carried out. The philosophy of Group Work and Nursery programs changed from one of Recreation and Custodial care to one involving group activiites that would meet individual needs and foster individual growth and development.

Looking  ahead , the Settlement  sees its role in the  neighborhood  as being one most closely related  to the prevailing social problems. It sees its  chief  responsibility  to  be  assisting  the  people  in the mobilization of their individual and collective resources towards  the solution of their problems.  At  the  end  of 1948,  the Settlement reformed  an  inactive neighborhood  coun cil  and  has  carried   that  to  much  more  intensive activity than previously existed in the neighborhood. Such matters  as housing, vice, sanitation and other neighborhood problems have been studied  and  acted  upon  by this  group. With  the ever-shifting  change in responsibility  from  private  to public  agencies,  Baden Street Settle­ment will probably see a gradual  transfer of some of its responsibilities in the health area  to the Health  Department.

What has gone on at Baden Street Settle­ment in the last two years has brought tangible results from the coupling of two strong forces. The spirit of neighborliness, friendship  and democ­racy–the basis of the institution’s beginning–plus the strength  of a fine philosophy of settlement house work, is helping to interpret the needs of the community  with scientific skill. The emphasis definitely has been on the importance of the family  unit  in making life worth  living. To that end  the  Neighborhood Council, working with Mr. Kriegsfeld  particularly,  began in a small way a plan  which  has snowballed  into  Baden-Ormond Housing Project. Upon its completion almost four hundred families can live with pride in their surroundings and freedom from unsanitary conditions.A Classroom at the Baden Street Settlement[View Image]
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A Classroom at the Baden Street Settlement

Of the Neighborhood Council this should be said: Anyone living n the Baden-Ormond district was welcomed to membership and urged to participate in the discussions of the neighborhood’s problems.  From these discussions it became more and more evident that the members had first and foremost an urge to improve living conditions in the area.  Also it developed that there was need for a gymnasium.  So the Board asked the Community Chest fo permission to carry on a drive for funds and the spring of 1950 enough money was raised to make possible the new gym.  This will be finished this fall.

It is not possible to write of the progress of the Settlement during the past two years without some mention of its Board President, Mrs. Dexter Perkins.  Under her leadership all things seemed possible, but behind the many projects brought to completion under her regime were many hours of hard work and long interviews which she undertook with patience and understanding.  Her knowledge of what constitutes good settlement house work and her long-range view of what Baden Street Settlement  could  mean  to  the  community  in  the  future  inspired  all with  whom she worked.

During  the past two years great effort has been  made  to strengthen the Case Work Department. Family relationships  are important to the Staff worker, whether the person seeking aid is a Health  Center patient, a Group  Work participant or a Nursery child . The  ideal would be to acquaint each member of the staff with the family back ground of each individual  in his group. Obviously that ideal cannot be attained because of a lack of funds.  An attempt  is made, however, to interview each indi­vidual  with  a  special problem  and  where  possible  meet the  various members of his family.

Only in the Nursery Department has routine case work service been available. Every nursery child must  be accompanied to the Settlement by a parent  for his complete  physical examination  and for  the child’s first three days in the Nurser y. Also a Case-Worker  makes a thorough analysis of need  before  a child  is accepted  for  care. During the  past year the average attendance has been higher,  due undoubtedly to the quality  of case work service, a strict  preventive  health program and  a close cooperation with the  Health  Center.  The  trend  now is to serve fewer  total  cases  per  year with the emphasis on regular attendance. In  this way  the child gets  the maximum benefits and  the family  more quickly  overcomes the adverse  circumstances  which  necessitate  its using this community  aid.

The Group Work Department has continued to expand over the last two years.  The sewing and English lessons are still being given to adults as in the very early days, but to that has been added classes for persons from 7 to 70.  Emphasis on teen-agers has been stressed, and they have been urged to register, pay a small fee, and thus be able to participate in all agency services.  Here again a case-worker has been of real help in interpreting to the Group Work Staff certain types of teen-age behavior and in contacting parents of maladjusted children. The Day Camp program is especially popular and is limited only because of lack of money.  Even so, many children have happy summer days and trips to near-by points of interest.

The Health Center has always directed its effort toward increasing the quality of service and at the same time has adopted a program of prevention, diagnosis and educational guidance. During the last two years statistics show a trend in patients away from treatment of disease and toward a marked interest in maintenance of health.  When a patient’s medical problem is solved or relieved, that is but the beginning. He is questioned about his wife and children and parents — again the emphasis on the family.

And so it goes–much to be done but with limited funds.  We pay tribute to the many volunteers who aid our staff and give generously of their time.  Because of their first-hand knowledge gained from their experiences in nursery, group work and health center departments, they, in time, make excellent committee and board members.  The various committees headed by a board member are working toward a closer relationship with staff members.  In the last two years a Personnel Practices Code has been evolved and has proved to be effective in improving staff morale.

The program has not only expanded and improved within the agency and neighborhood but outside as well.  More and more board and staff members are playing important roles in the various affiliated national, state and local organizations.

The National Federation of Settlements, N.Y.State Social Welfare Conference, Civic Legislative League, N.A.A.C.P., Council of Social Agencies, the various professional membership associations are but a few of the several organizations.

With the new Baden-Ormond Housing Project and with the new gym, the future looks bright.  It is hoped that with additional play areas in the housing development, under the supervision of the Settlement, that better parental understanding of childhood and youth will come about.  The original 152 Baden Street frame building eventually will be torn down and a huge playground area will then be available.  The Nursery and Health  Center  buildings  will be used  for  club  rooms, offices and lounge-rooms for  different age levels after  those  two departments are moved to their  new quarters  in the Housing  Project.

All of the departments  continue  to utilize their facilities for teaching purposes.  Several  near-by colleges  send  their  students  for  orientation visits and learning  experiences. University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry,  University  of Buffalo School of Social Work, Colgate Rochester Divinity  School  are  but  some  of the  graduate and  profes­sional schools  that  include  the different activities  and services  as part of their  training  programs.  Likewise,  important research  projects  are carried  on from  time to time.Gertrude M. Jerdone, Head Resident, 1916-1948[View Image]
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Gertrude M. Jerdone, Head Resident, 1916-1948 Irving M. Kriegsfeld, Executive Director, 1947 - [View Image]
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Irving M. Kriegsfeld, Executive Director, 1947 –

With the continued and increased assistance of the Community  Chest, state  and city departments, Youth Commission,  as well as even greater contributions by the membership and  interested individuals, sufficient funds  should be ensured. There  should  in time come a program  wherein all the members of a family can find use for their leisure time, understanding of good health measures  and  a pride  in family  life.

A member agency of Rochester Community Chest, Council of Social Agencies, National Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers, New York State and The National Conference of Social Work.

Source: Baden St. Settlement Files, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota Library. More information is available at:

3 Replies to “Baden Street Settlement 1901-1951”

  1. David Martin says:

    My working mother enrolled me in the daycare section of the Baden Street Settlement around 1950. I have wonderful memories of my time there. Years later, I learned that one of my cousins was a counselor there.

  2. Caden says:

    That’s more than selsnbie! That’s a great post!

  3. Henry Jones says:

    Their settlement services at reasonable cost and go much beyond the ordinary are a few more reasons why they are considered the best in the business.

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