A home for orphan newsboys and bootblacks

In the late 19th century, thousands of kids lived on the streets of New York, many supporting themselves by selling newspapers, shining shoes, and doing other odd jobs—not all of them legal.

streetvagrant A tough life for a homeless little dude in the 1880s











It was a pretty dicey existence, so to help them survive, the newly formed Children’s Aid Society put up several privately financed lodging houses. Here, homeless boys and girls could get a hot meal and a warm bed, not to mention attend school, go to prayer sessions, and learn a trade.











This Victorian Gothic/Queen Anne building is the third lodging house the Society opened, called the Tompkins Square Lodging House for Boys and Industrial School. Constructed on Avenue B and 8th Street in 1886, it housed 71 boys, according to the 1870 census, most between 12 and 15.

The architect, Calvert Vaux, also designed Central Park. Vaux was committed to helping the poor and designed all of the Children’s Aid Society homes.


A lovely S next to the window commemorates Mrs. Robert L. Stuart, the benefactor of the home.

Over the years, about 170,000 street kids passed through all the different lodging houses. The Avenue B building didn’t house kids for long though. By 1910 it became a school only, and in 1925 was sold to a Jewish congregation. Vacant in the 1970s, it was turned into apartments in 1977, then landmarked in 2000.

An extensive history of the home and neighborhood can be found here.

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8 Responses to “A home for orphan newsboys and bootblacks”

  1. The successful newsboy strike of 1899 « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] than working for the newspaper itself, a newsboy—usually a kid or young teen from a poor family, often homeless himself—had to buy copies of the paper from the publisher, then sell them […]

  2. Jan Burke Says:

    I came across a set of recordings collected by Electric City Publishing in Buffalo NY, of songs written there between 1894-1906, “Buffalo Souvenir Music.” It includes a song written in 1897 by a woman, Lillian Mahon Siegfried. The title is “Slumber Song,” and it is dedicated “to the Newsboys and Bootblacks Home of Buffalo.”
    I was intrigued, but had low expectations when I entered “Newsboys and Bootblacks Home” into a search engine. It led me to your wonderful blog. Thanks so much for including this story.

  3. wildnewyork Says:

    Thank you…glad I could help!

  4. the first newsboy to hit the streets of New York « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] wonder late 19th century social reformers opened “lodging houses” for newsboys and other kids who worked or lived on the streets. Share this:TwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  5. New York’s painter of “cheery street urchins” | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] was a problem that certainly didn’t go unnoticed, with benevolence societies building homes for working kids and urging legislators to pass mandatory school and child labor […]

  6. All the reasons to love this Mott Street school | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Jefferson Market Courthouse and some of the Children’s Aid Society other buildings, like the Tompkins Square Lodging House for Boys on East Eighth Street and Avenue B, which also served as an industrial school and has the same […]

  7. theloveauthentic Says:

    Such a provocative lead in image – provocative, sad, haunting and beautiful. Incredible history in bricks and mortar.

  8. theloveauthentic Says:

    Provocative and haunting, I love your lead in image, so desperate the reality of this small child. The stories contained on the steps of bricks and mortar.

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