Places that Matter

Russell Sage Foundation Building (former)

Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Home to the Russell Sage Foundation for city planning, now apartments
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Place Matters Profile

On the building described in the 1988 AIA Guide as "lovingly detailed Renaissance Revival," the frieze still announces its original mission: "For the Improvement of Social and Living Conditions." The people who worked inside the building were leaders in the new field of scientific philanthropy; among the first to research the causes of social ills rather than simply attack their symptoms through charity.

Established by Margaret Olivia Sage in 1906, the Russell Sage Foundation engaged in city planning--creating Forest Hills Gardens, and housing the Regional Plan Association in it formative years; fielded programs in Recreation, Statistics, Child-helping, and Remedial Loans; and led the philanthropic world in investigation of working conditions. For 50 years their Division of Industrial Studies was directed by Mary Van Kleeck, whose early studies into child and female labor demonstrated the connection between unequal wages and enduring poverty.

The Foundation transferred the building (built in 1914) to the Archdiocese of New York in 1949. Today it houses the Gramercy Towers Apartments (converted in 1975).