At the beginning of the 20th century, it definitely wasn’t acceptable for single females to rent an apartment of their own. Which is why women’s residences sprang up all over Manhattan.
One was the Webster Apartments at 419 West 34th Street. The founders, Charles and Josiah Webster, were cousins of R.H. Macy; they left their fortune to the creation of a home for unmarried working women.
“The apartments are to operated without profit, meals at nominal prices are to be served, and a library and other conveniences are to be provided,” The New York Times wrote in 1916, when Charles Webster’s will was made public.
The residence opened in 1923. A room and two meals a day on a lower floor ran $8.50 a week; upper floor rooms plus meals went for $12 weekly. The Webster also provided sewing machines, an infirmary, a roof garden, and a library, with books “selected by a trained librarian,” the Times noted.
It all sounds quaint and unnecessary in today’s world. But The Webster is still going strong almost a century later, providing living quarters to hundreds of women at a time.
Other women’s residences are also still thriving. There’s the Jeanne d’Arc Home in Chelsea.