Posts Tagged ‘Jeanne D’Arc home’

When Manhattan had a French neighborhood

January 17, 2011

Or “French colony,” as this New York Times headline announces from a 1902 article. Mostly it was centered in Manhattan’s West 20s and 30s.

“The French colony is almost as old as the settlement which has grown into the present city of New York, French Huguenots having been among the early settlers of Manhattan,” reported the Times.

“But the French colony has long since lost its Huguenot character and is now largely Catholic, maintaining the Churches of St. Vincent de Paul in West 23rd Street and of Jean Baptiste in East 76th Street.”

St. Vincent de Paul, founded in 1857, still offers mass in French.

Among the other institutions anchoring the district were the Cercle Francaise de l’Harmonie, on West 26th Street, a social hub.

A battalion of the Guards of Lafayette, with headquarters on West 25th Street, “keeps alive national traditions among young Frenchmen in New York.”

As for young French women, they had the  Jeanne d’Arc Home, described as a home for “friendless French girls.” They still rent rooms to women today.

The French Benevolent Society, French Hospital, an orphanage, and several professional groups representing French chefs, waiters, and musicians also made their home in the neighborhood—now Chelsea, which has long since lost any international flavor.

The Webster Apartments: for women only

March 12, 2009

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.

In the defunct female hotel category, check out the Barbizon and the Trowmart.

A home for “friendless French girls”

August 4, 2008

About 125 women currently live in the Jeanne D’Arc Home, a residence hotel on Eighth Avenue and 24th Street run by an order of nuns. It’s probably the only residency in the city, single-sex or otherwise, that has its own chapel, and one of the few that prohibits men past the front desk. 

The home has an interesting history. An original brick building was put up in 1896 by the Fathers of Mercy of the Church of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic church on 23rd Street that still holds mass in French. The home was to be a place where “friendless French girls who come to this country” could establish themselves and find work as “femmes de chambre, bonnes d’enfant, and gouvernantes,” as an 1896 New York Times article explains. 

Though the women living there now represent all nationalities, the home still maintains a very Catholic purpose: to care for the spiritual and temporal needs of women, as a mission statement in the foyer reads.