A lovely 1855 schoolhouse in Greenwich Village

“Proper but gloomy” is how one architectural writer characterizes this Italianate brownstone building at 34 East 12th Street.


“Lovely and enchanting” might be a better description. For a long time, this 19th century beauty was covered up behind scaffolding and brown paint. Now that its facade is back in view, its history deserves a shout out too.

Schoolhouse18551920sThe building opened in 1855 as Grammar School 47. That makes it one of the oldest schoolhouses in the city, and it’s also a rare public school at the time that was reserved for girls only.

“In 1854, the year before Public School 47 was built, East 12th Street between Broadway and University Place consisted mainly of houses and stables,” according to the Landmarks Preservation Committee report, which designated it a landmark in 1998.

The city school board wanted to expand the number of schools, especially for girls. “It was the Board’s belief that ‘. . . separate schools for the sexes contributes greatly to the economy in conducting the school, and in advantages in many other respects.'”


In 1897, it became Girls’ High School, then was used by the school board in various capacities until it was given to the Police Athletic League (PAL) in 1958. The PAL organizes activities for kids to keep them out of trouble and foster better community relations.

Today it continues to belong to PAL, though the longtime sign on the entrance between the arched brownstone noting this is gone.

[Second and third images: NYPL Digital Gallery]

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5 Responses to “A lovely 1855 schoolhouse in Greenwich Village”

  1. Worst Subway Stations Named; Breaking Bad Cafe in Greenpoint? Says:

    […] about the 160-year history of a former schoolhouse on E. 12th Street. [Ephemeral NY] Tags: Bushwick, East Village, Greenpoint, Lower East Side « Like the […]

  2. Penelope Bianchi Says:

    It is a beautiful building!!

  3. Sean Munger Says:

    Reblogged this on http://www.seanmunger.com and commented:
    I love the historical geography of New York City, and the Ephemeral New York blog is all about it! Here’s a very cool place I would never have discovered on my own: the old Grammar School 47, built in 1855, which incredibly still exists (and is still recognizable) in Greenwich Village. Its history is pretty interesting, so take a look!

  4. NikkiTNYC Says:

    Reblogged this on Nikki in NYC and commented:
    A look at a beautiful old building in the East Village.

  5. A Girls-only public school in NYC? | Bygone NYC Says:

    […] A lovely 1855 schoolhouse in Greenwich Village […]

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