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Lavanburg-Corner House Fund, records

Identifier: I-518

Scope and Content Note

The Lavanburg-Corner House was started in 1927 under the Lavanburg Foundation, a philanthropic fund, as a low-income, non-profit corporation for families with children unable to find housing elsewhere, and operated until 1996. The organization became fully philanthropic in 1972. The collection contains bills, by-laws, correspondence, financial statements, histories, letters, meeting minutes, memorandums, newspaper clippings, proposals, publications, and reports of the Lavanburg-Corner House Foundation.

The collection is valuable to researchers studying these topics: child welfare, emotional support, funding, institutional care, Jewish children, Jewish welfare, philanthropy, public health, public housing, rehabilitation, social welfare, and vocational training.

The collection is in English.

The collection is divided into four series.


  • undated, 1942, 1944, 1950, 1952, 1954-1960, 1962-1966, 1968-2000, 2002


Language of Materials

The collection is in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:

American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011


Historical Note

Frederick L. Lavanburg was a wealthy philanthropist interested in housing issues. He obtained his wealth from the dye industry.1 In 1927, Mr. Lavanburg returned from Europe having surveyed the housing conditions in Europe and examined four apartment houses erected in Paris by the Rothschild Foundation. He built a low-rent apartment house for poor families on Goerck Street on the Lower East Side of New York City with the hope of bringing housing relief to its tenants. The Lavanburg family provided $700,000 for the erection of the Lavanburg Homes that still stand at 124-142 Baruch Place in New York City. He took a personal interest in the building of these apartments, stopping off each day on his way to work to witness the progress of their construction.2

The Frederick L. Lavanburg Foundation was established by Mr. Lavanburg as a low-income, non-profit housing corporation in 1927. Its mission was to improve housing conditions for its residents or housing for families with children unable to find housing elsewhere. The Foundation became the means for funding, building and managing the new estates he built. Mr. Lavanburg left 3 million dollars in his will for the Lavanburg Foundation. The Lavanburg Foundation provided seed grants to organizations working in New York City and surrounding areas that shared Mr. Lavanburg's belief that good housing should provide the means to build lives through social support. The main housing organization that the Lavanburg Foundation funded was the Citizens Housing and Planning Council (CHPC), which it supported for over sixty years with substantial grants.3 The Foundation spent almost 4 million dollars in carrying out housing projects.

Mr. Lavanburg was the brother-in-law of Oscar Straus, the first president of the American Jewish Historical Society. Oscar Straus served as Chairman of the Lavanburg Foundation from its establishment. Four generations of the Straus family had served on the Board of Directors of the Lavanburg Foundation.

Mr. Lavanburg was also deeply concerned with the plight of underprivileged children and with the problems of juvenile delinquency, racial discrimination and poverty and set about creating and funding service programs in that area as well.

In 1928, the Hannah Lavanburg Home (also known as the Immigrant Home) at 333 East 12th St. changed its name to Lavanburg House, following Mr. Lavanburg's death in 1927. He had left approximately $500,000 for the Hannah Lavanburg Home for Immigrant Girls.4 By 1933, the number of needy girls dropped so low that trustees voted to merge with the Corner House, a residence for orphaned Jewish boys. In 1934, the Lavanburg House merged with The Corner House to become Lavanburg-Corner House, Inc.

The Lavanburg-Corner House was a home for wayward juvenile delinquents and homeless youth and became known as The Youth House. Around 1944, the Youth House divided into the Youth House for Boys and Youth House for Girls. The Youth House for Boys dealt with boys 16 to 21 years of age. Boys that arrived at the Youth House had serious emotional and behavioral problems and came from other institutions, foster homes or their own homes. The Youth House created positive experiences for the boys: it served as a screening center but was not a treatment center.5 Social workers helped the boys to speak about their problems after which the case worker staff would concern itself with rehabilitation.6

In 1957, due to overcrowding, the Youth House moved to larger facilities. Its new location in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx was comprised of two separate buildings - one for boys and one for girls. Over time, the boys facility became known as Spofford Youth House, and then simply Spofford Juvenile Center; the girls facility was known as Manida Juvenile Center. For a variety of reasons - ranging from administrative failures, to staff abuses, to the physical limitations of the facility - it became known as a place that worsened the problems of juvenile delinquents. During the 1970's, the Human Resources Administration and the Department of Probation failed in their attempt to run and to make any improvement in the Spofford Juvenile Center. The Spofford Juvenile Center was directed by twenty-seven executive directors over its twenty-nine years in existence and difficulties were often encountered as a result of bureaucratic procedures. The LCH funded the Spofford Juvenile Center until its closing in 1972.7 To help solve some of the problems in the facility, New York City Mayor Ed Koch created a Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) in 1979, which operated Spofford and the city's non-secure facilities. At this point, Spofford was no longer under the custody of the Lavanburg-Corner House. The Spofford Juvenile Center was officially renamed "Bridges" in 1999.8

The Lavanburg-Corner House (LCH) Fund of New York City was established after Frederick L. Lavanburg's death on November 5, 1927, which received about 1.5 million dollars in Lavanburg's will. The LCH Fund has been described as "a philanthropic fund devoted to providing a healthy home life for needy children and families, to fostering training and research in the field of social welfare."9 The LCH Fund donated generously to agencies in the New York City area that worked actively in these areas.

In 1949, changing conditions influenced trustees to devote most of their grants to the training of counselors serving New York agencies for children. In 1966, the Lavanburg-Corner House Fund renewed a grant that encouraged the recruitment of Jewish community center workers. The LCH Fund Board of Directors discussed the idea of using undergraduates in Jewish community centers at a board meeting in 1969. In 1971, a Manpower Utilization Study was conducted by the LCH Fund and Jewish Welfare Board. As a result of this study, the Board of Trustees proposed to stop funding of the Youth House in order to supply more money for grants for social welfare projects. In 1972, the Callaghy Hall, a shelter for girls and young women, shut down.10 A couple months later in 1972, the LCH stopped operating and funding the Spofford Juvenile Center (see above). At this point, the LCH Fund became solely philanthropic. In 1973, the LCH in conjunction with the Jewish Welfare Board developed the JWB-Teenage Demonstration and Training Program. In 1980, the Lavanburg-Corner House Fund established an office at the Jewish Welfare Board headquarters in New York City. At the Jewish Welfare Board, the LCH Fund provided funds to train undergraduate students to work in Jewish community centers as a means of testing out and modifying ideas in social welfare. In 1990, the Lavanburg-Corner House Fund Board of Trustees decided to support programs that help young people with stress accept responsibility for their actions and contribute to their communities.11

Over its existence, the Lavanburg-Corner House Fund awarded grants to agencies and organizations dealing with the issues of underprivileged children and poverty. Among these organizations are ASPIRA, Bank Street College of Education, Big Brothers Inc., East Side House, the Educational Alliance, the Henry Street Settlement, the Institute for Child Mental Health, Jewish Board of Guardians, Jobs for Youth, Mt. Sinai Medical Center, NYU Medical Center, Parent Preparation, and the Red Cross.

The Lavanburg-Corner House Fund was never a giant of philanthropy, yet, at one point, its assets exceeded $3 million. From the mid-1970's through the early 1990's, the LCH was inundated with appeals for grants. From 1982 to 1996, the LCH Fund dispensed $4.5 million. In the early 1990's, the LCH Fund Board of Trustees faced a dilemma: whether to give a few organizations a lot of money or a lot of organizations a little money. They chose the latter. At a board meeting in 1995, the trustees decided to spend the Fund out of existence. In 1996, after 68 years of operation, the Lavanburg-Corner House Fund closed and gave away almost all of their money.

At the final meeting in January 1996 at the New School for Social Research, the Lavanburg-Corner House Fund apportioned funds for grants that helped abused children, homeless children, improved life skills for youth-at-risk, literacy, preventive education (teen pregnancy, substance abuse, AIDS), school-based and after-school programs, programs for pre-school age children, programs addressing ethnic tensions among youth, and programs for immigrant children.12 At the meeting, Robert Popper, the Lavanburg-Corner House Fund president, met with the Board of Trustees for the last time and agreed to give 46 nonprofit city agencies and institutions about $377,000, almost everything left in the Foundation's account. Grants were distributed in $5,000 to $10,000 chunks to agencies such as the Big Sisters, the Educational Alliance, the Fresh Air Fund, the Grand Street Settlement, the Henry Street Settlement, and the Women in Need (see Series II). According to Lauren Katzowitz Shenfield, the executive director of the Foundation Service and founder of the Philanthropy Advisors, only a few thousand dollars was left for legal fees and other costs.13 The United Jewish Appeal was declared the recipient of any remaining money. At the time of its closing, the LCH was being used as a senior citizens center, a boxing gym, several apartments for poor seniors and offices for the Educational Alliance.14

In 2002, the American Jewish Historical Society acquired the corporate records of the Lavanburg-Corner House Fund from the Foundation Service, including administrative files and grant files. In 2010, rising administrative expenses led to the dissolution of the Lavanburg Foundation in 2011.15 The Lavanburg Foundation closed in June 2011 and its records are now available to researchers at the New York Public Library.


  1. 1 "Brooklyn, New York Dye Industry." ( Accessed September 19, 2011.
  2. 2 "Fred L. Lavanburg Returns from Europe." ( Accessed September 16, 2011.
  3. 3 "Recent Grants." ( Accessed September 13, 2011.
  4. 4 The American Jewish Year Book 5689 ( Accessed September 13, 2011.
  5. 5 Youth House ( Accessed September 13, 2011.
  6. 6 Bank, Jules. Cohen, Frank J., Case Work Treatment in Institutional Child Care. The Jewish Social Service Quarterly. National Conference of Jewish Social Service, Jewish Communal Service Association of North America. September 1937: 125-129. (
  7. 7 "Juvenile Detention in New York - Then and Now" ( Accessed September 13, 2011.
  8. 8 "Broken Promises, Broken System" ( Accessed September 15, 2011.
  9. 9 Credit Lines (
  10. 10 "The Lavanburg Foundation: Requiem and Beyond" ( Accessed September 6, 2011.
  11. 11 "Foundation Is Tapped Out," New York Daily News, February 19, 1996. (
  12. 12 The Lavanburg-Corner House Closure of Foundation Planning Discussion. I-518, Box 8, Folder 1. Collection of the American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA, and New York, NY.
  13. 13 "Foundation Is Tapped Out," New York Daily News, February 19, 1996. (
  14. 14 ibid
  15. 15 Minutes, 2010. Lavanburg Foundation records, Box 7, Folder 8. Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library.


4 Linear Feet (8 manuscript boxes)


The Lavanburg-Corner House (LCH) Fund was a philanthropic fund started in 1927 under the Lavanburg Foundation. Its mission was to support/fund agencies that dealt with troubled children and youth. The LCH Fund became fully philanthropic in 1972. The collection contains bills, by-laws, correspondence, financial statements, histories, letters, meeting minutes, memorandums, newspaper clippings, proposals, publications, and reports of the Lavanburg-Corner House Fund.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Susan Cahn of Foundation Service, Inc., 2002.

Related Material

Guide to the Records of Lavanburg-Corner House Fund (1927-1996), undated, 1942, 1944, 1950, 1952, 1954-1960, 1962-1966, 1968-2000, 2002   *I-518
Processed by Marvin Rusinek
© 2011
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States