Did you know that Eleanor Roosevelt taught dance with us nearly 100 years ago? Before she was the first lady or a United Nations delegate, her then-boyfriend – none other than Franklin Delano Roosevelt – picked her up at 184 Eldridge for a date.
Check out this excerpt from our history, documented in Legacy of Light:
As the Settlement came of age, it was able to draw increasing support from its own ranks, and many of its alumni have left their mark on the life of the city and the nation. Among them are former New York Mayor Abraham Beame, Senator Jacob Javits, and state Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz; the sculptor Jacob Epstein; basketball greats Barney Sedran and Nat Holman. Actors and dramatists such as Elmer Rice, Edward G. Robinson, and Walter Matthau, and composer-lyricist Irving Caesar drew inspiration in their early years from theatrical performances at the Settlement. George Gershwin played on the Settlement’s piano. Eleanor Roosevelt taught dance. Later, she would recall:
I remember, before we were married, I was working at University Settlement in New York and Franklin called for me there late one afternoon. I wasn’t ready because there was a sick child and I had to see that she was taken home. Franklin said he would go with me.
We took the child to an area not far away and Franklin went with me up the three flights to the tenement rooms in which the family lived. It was not a pleasant place and Franklin looked around in surprise and horror. It was the first time, I think, that he had ever really seen a slum and when he got back to the street he drew a deep breath of fresh air. “My God,” he whispered, “I didn’t know people lived like that!
During his presidency, Franklin D. Roosevelt would describe University Settlement as “a landmark in the social history of the nation.”