Graham Home for Old Ladies

Now it’s a luxe Clinton Hill co-op. But this foreboding structure was built in 1851 as the “Graham Institute, or Home for Respectable Aged, Indigent Females.” Sounds like a genteel place, but a New York Times article from 1887 describes how residents were physically abused by the staff.

The name was shortened in 1899, and as the neighborhood declined, the home shut down. By the 1970s it had become the seedy Bull Shippers Motor Lodge, then sat empty until 2001.



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One Response to “Graham Home for Old Ladies”

  1. Susie McGibboney Says:

    320 Washington Avenue in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, was built in 1851 as the home of the Brooklyn Society for the Relief of Respectable Aged Indigent Females.

    The 4.5-story building, known more popularly as the Graham Home for Old Ladies, was the creation of John B. Graham, an apparently generous 19th-century lawyer who financed the living quarters “in consequence of his sympathy with the indigent gentlewomen who had, by previous culture and refinement, been unfitted to accept willingly the public asylum provided by the state,” according to the Clinton Hill Historic District Designation Report of 1981.

    Back in the 1800s, to be accepted as a resident, “a lady had to be over 60 and bring satisfactory testimonials of the propriety of her conduct and the respectability of her character,” according to an article in The Fort Greene Association Newsletter, published in 2001, the year the building was converted into 25 condos, “and come provided with a good bed and furniture for her room.”

    For more than a century after its founding, the Graham Home continued to provide shelter for dozens of women, who held annual fairs, according to news articles in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. In one, it described “delicate and artistic pieces of hand work, dainty shawls and cushions and hundreds of other things so dear to the feminine heart.” All these, it told readers, were available at the fair, “in profusion.”

    But by the 1980s, there was another kind of lady residing in the building, which by then had become the Bull Shippers Plaza Motor Inn. These were “ladies by the hour who brought only scanty-panty testimonials of propriety,” according to the 2001 Fort Greene Newsletter article.

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