House of the Good Shepherd
Back in France in 1664 a devoted Catholic named Pere Eudes formed a society, The Order of The Sisters of the Good Shepherd, to assist wayward woman in need of a refuge. The first branch appeared in the U.S. in 1857, and a charter for a branch in Brooklyn was established in 1868. The first location was in two homes in Henry Street in Brooklyn, but by 1872 the need was so great that the board found a larger location in East New York, with plans to build a much larger facility.
|1st East New York Location, 1873|
When I saw the location of the Good Shepherd on this 1873 Plat map, I realized it was not the same location as the one I had seen in postcards. The intersection is Atlantic and East New York Avenue.
|House of the Good Shepherd, 1st Building 1923|
This photo of the building was taken some 50 years later, in 1923. It was built as a hotel in 1867 but never used. Even at the time they moved in in April of 1873 the Board had already purchased land not far away to build a much larger facility. This structure became the Central Hotel after that. This picture is a closeup of a shot from Zone 1, and next to it is a picture from the 1930s showing this building is gone.
|House of the Good Shepherd, Hopkinson Ave and Pacific Street, East New York|
Dated: 1907 Maker: Souvenir Post Card Co. Status: Own (BG)
This first building is completed in 1875 and the women are moved that year from the East New York Avenue location. Over the next few years the facility is expanded into a complex. The Good Shepherd becomes the standard repository for most women in trouble with the law, and in those days that could include disobeying a husband, drunkeness, failure to pay a debt, etc.
|This shot comes from the "King's Views of Brooklyn, 1905" book. It shows more of the complex, though probably taken at roughly the same time as the postcard above. In a typical day the girls are woken at 5 A.M., and go through a regimen of meals, chores, training, and a variety of religious acts including hymn singing, sermons, etc. The day ends at 9. To no surprise there are stories of attempted escapes and suicides. The 1930 census data lists 59 employees, all single woman from the ages of 26 to 78, with Stella Harnigan in charge. There are 280 "inmates", mostly but not all single. Some are associated with St. Philomena's Training School, which I have not researched yet. The value of the property at the time is given as $911,215.|
|This shot is from 1942, a view down Dean Street. Technically I don't think this area is considered East New York. I have yet to determine what happened, but the building appears to go out of use by the 1930s. The city considers the site for the new Franklin K Lane but opts instead to build on the location of the old Boys Truant Home. It
appears back on the city tax rolls as the city makes a push during the depression to
remove tax exempt status for numerous properties. The reason is listed as "vacant". Amazingly, we have found someone who was there in 1956, so apparently it remained in
service for a number of years. Sally Rodgers provided some memories of the experience.|
|By the 1960s, the city is considering using the location for a drug rehab center. After numerous battles, the city clears the lot and uses it for low income housing. I have not pinpointed the dates of demolition or if the building was occupied at any point in the 1950s. Neil Sullivan provided the 2006 image of the location. It should be noted the Order of the Good Shepherd is still active and doing much good charity work all over the country.|
|The following articles can be found at the Brooklyn Eagle Online site|
May 21, 1872 "A Noble Charity- The House of the Good Shepherd at East New York"
Feb 7, 1873 "House of the Good Shepherd- Origin and Growth of the Institution"
August 7, 1875 "House of the Good Shepherd- Transfer of the inmates to the new building"
The following articles can be found in the New York Times
Feb 16, 1929- "Ask Brooklyn Jail Instead of School"
September 10, 1959- "City Acts to Buy Site for Shelter"