Hartley House was founded by Marcellus Hartley to honor his father, Robert Hartley, a prominent businessman and social activist. On January 1, 1897 Hartley House opened its doors to the people of New York City’s 15th district, an area then described as “a very wretched and densely populated portion of the city.” Its purpose was to serve as a place for social reform through education, volunteerism and charity. Its purpose now is similar: to provide the residents of the Hell’s Kitchen community with services that meet their present needs and permanently empower them as individuals.
From the start, the goal at Hartley House was to not only aid, but to teach. Early programs included cooking classes, sewing classes, and lectures on hygiene and child care, housekeeping instruction in a “demonstration bedroom” and a work-exchange program in which participants could perform their cleaning, sewing and carpet-making talents for payment in groceries and clothing. Although Hartley House did not distribute any monetary aid, great value was found in the care and consideration given by a staff of volunteers who hoped not only to provide people with temporary means, but also to help permanently improve their situation.
Since that time, Hartley House has continued its tradition of assessing and meeting the neighborhood’s contemporary concerns. Our programs are provided in a facility whose small size is a virtue, enabling us to be both flexible and personalized, and we are always alert to ways in which our programs and services can support and complement each other. Hartley House fosters ongoing connections with the community as they pass from one phase of life into another. Our mission is to strengthen these connections for the families, friends, neighbors, businesses and organizations that make up our community.