Manahatta to Manhattan

Here’s a great reading booklet from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian about the first New Yorkers

The Lenape, Manhattan’s original inhabitants,  called the island Manahatta, which means “hilly island.”

Rich with natural resources, Manahatta had an abundance of fruits, nuts, birds, and animals. Fish and shellfish were plentiful and the ocean was full of seals, whales, and dolphins. Migrant birds flew to local marshes based on the available food supply or weather conditions.

The body of water off the coast of Lower Manhattan is an estuary, a place where saltwater from the Atlantic Ocean mixes with freshwater from the Hudson River. Estuaries are particularly good places for wildlife to live.

The Lenape called the Hudson River Shatemuc, meaning “the river that flows both ways,” because the river alternates its flow from north to south along with the Atlantic tides. Shatemuc was an important water route for the Lenape who traded with other Native people living in villages along its banks.

To read more, click here.

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Before Columbus

Most people believe Christopher Columbus was the first European to reach America. They’re wrong! Here’s an article from which explains:

Nearly 500 years before the birth of Christopher Columbus, a band of European sailors left their homeland behind in search of a new world. Their high-prowed Viking ship sliced through the cobalt waters of the Atlantic Ocean as winds billowed the boat’s enormous single sail. After traversing unfamiliar waters, the Norsemen aboard the wooden ship spied a new land, dropped anchor and went ashore. Half a millennium before Columbus “discovered” America, those Viking feet may have been the first European ones to ever have touched North American soil.

Click here to read more!


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Get to Know U.S.

For those of you who are new to our program, here’s a short history of our organization. After you finish reading, take the quiz to test your comprehension!

University Settlement, 1899
Stanton Coit












A Short History of University Settlement

The settlement movement was a social movement beginning in the 1880s with the goal of helping poor people. It started in London, England, and its main object was the establishment of “settlement houses” in poor urban areas. These houses offered food, shelter, and education.

The first settlement house in the United States was University Settlement Society of New York, founded in 1886 by Stanton Coit. It is located at 184 Eldridge Street on New York’s Lower East Side. It provides many services for the mostly immigrant population of the neighborhood.

In 1886, on the Lower East Side, more than 3,000 people lived in a single square block. The tenement buildings of the area normally had four apartments on each floor; a typical apartment had one small room that might house a family of five or more.

Immigrants not only lived in bad conditions, but worked in bad conditions as well. Most of them worked in the garment industry. Working for very low wages in crowded, uncomfortable, dangerous sweatshops, they produced half of the clothing sold in the United States.

When it first began, University Settlement served as a home for immigrants who arrived in the United States. It provided courses for new immigrants on everything from politics to the English language to basketball. The University Settlement House also included a library, kindergarten, and bath house.

During his presidency, Franklin D. Roosevelt described University Settlement as “a landmark in the social history of the nation.” His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, volunteered at University Settlement when she was a young woman. She began her work as a teacher of dance and calisthenics, a way to use physical exercise and movement to improve health after long hours of work in a confined space.

University Settlement continues to provide support services to residents of the Lower East Side, and now offers programs in 21 locations across Manhattan and Brooklyn. Programs serve New Yorkers of all ages and include child care, pre-school, housing assistance, mental health services, college and career preparation, crisis intervention, activities for seniors, arts events, English classes, after-school programs, and summer camps.

To visit the official University Settlement website, click here.

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Eleanor Roosevelt & US

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.”

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Remembering John Lennon

From Simple English Wikipedia:

John Lennon was an English musician, singer and songwriter. He was a member of the English rock band the Beatles. After the Beatles stopped making records in 1970, he lived in the United States with his wife Yoko Ono, and continued his music career up until his death in 1980.

On December 8th 1980, Lennon was shot dead as he was going into his home, by a man named Mark David Chapman who was mentally ill.

Fans all over the world mourned Lennon’s death. It made them feel that a special part of their lives was gone. Many met in New York’s Central Park, near where Lennon and Ono lived, to say their goodbyes. There is now a garden in Central Park in Lennon’s memory called “Strawberry Fields” after one of Lennon’s most popular songs.

Here’s “Strawberry Fields” by the Beatles:

And here’s John Lennon’s most famous solo song, “Imagine”:

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