Walking in the footsteps…

3rd of January – a walking tour of sites relating to the events leading up to the International House idea.

Harry’s Early Years

Harry was born in 1883 in Upstate New York in Elmira. He had a very Christian upbringing and his life revolved around church.  In his teens was quite an entrepreneur selling and delivering newspaper rain or shine and then his father bought him a milk round, this is where he learnt about people.  He was encourage by his teacher to go to University at Leigh starting in 1900 he studied Civil Engineering. He was involved in the YMCA there from the start and stayed after graduation to work for them. He started letter writing to raise funds to pay his salary and found he was quite good at it.  In 1902 he met Florence Quay and they married in 1904 aged 21.

Then the Head of Canton Christian College in China approached him to go to china as a professor. As the were buildings being eaten by termites wanted him to go and be a professor and re-build the college in cement! (one of Harry’s interests). However Harry was given the following advice by the Leader of Christian Student Movement in NYC “If you go to China, you’ll just become one grain of sand on the seashore, one drop in the bucket.  But if you come to New York, you’ll be one grain of sand that can influence many other grains of sand around you.  Instead of going to China and sinking yourself as one individual in that vast complex of people, you might come here and through interesting medical or theological or education students, for instance, to go abroad, you might multiply your life twenty times or more.”  So he chose to come to NYC 1905 to work for the Christian Student Movement on salary of $60 a month and worked mostly with medical students for the first 2 years. He and Florence lived in Harlem 143th St and Lenox avenue when first arrived

Steps of Low Memorial Library – This is where Harry met the Chinese Student who started him thinking about international student life in NYC in 1909. To read more about this meeting follow this link https://grainsofsand.blog/where-it-started/

417 –  W114th St – Opposite St Lukes Hospital –sadly their apartment does not exist any more. They also had a ‘country’ house up in University Heights the Bronx.

“My wife and I decided to invite a small group of them to our home in the country on a Sunday afternoon.  Through the admission files of some of the colleges, I obtained the names of some eight or ten students, and we invited them to our first gathering.  Much to our surprise, they all came.”

There we found in front of our little fireplace, assisted by a cup of tea and a piece of cake or a sandwich a miracle took place.  The fact that those students represented different countries and nationalities lost its significance.  Their national identity sort of dissolved, they were just friendly, talkative students.”

Intercollegiate Cosmopolitain Club – 1912-1915 at 554 W114th St then 2929 Broadway

In 1912 Harry founded Intercollegiate Cosmopolitan Club – First president a Phillip Hitti from Lebanon came to US scholarship Colombia in 1911/12. “We weren’t trying to Chrisianize these people, we were trying to integrate them into one brotherly group.”

554 W114th St was rented by Bayard Dodge in 1912. They held their Sunday suppers there could have 40 or 50 attend. It had a small dormitory and through WWI they had Germans living there alongside other nationalities. However it was not big enough space so they decided to move. They moved to the 4th floor of 2929 Broadway and the Sunday Suppers moved back to Earl Hall.

 1920 extract from the club’s literature says “The object of the Cosmopolitan Club is to unite for mutual benefit, socially, intellectually and morally, students of all nationalities in the colleges, universities and professional schools of New York City, and to promote friendly relations between foreign students and Americans. To this end, representatives of the Club hold themselves ready to meet students on their arrival in the City, advise them regarding school, board and lodging, provide them with opportunities for self-help when needed, visit them when sick and co-operate in making their stay in this country mutually beneficial and enjoyable.”  – $2 membership 

Earl Hall

Cleveland H Dodge’s father had given Earl Hall at Colombia in memory of his brother Earl, as a religious headquarters.

“Our home was not large enough (for the Sunday Suppers).  We must do something downtown.  This was at that time when through Mr Dodge and Mr Morgan, I was able to get Earl Hall for this purpose.  We started our first series of Sunday Suppers in the fall of 1910 in one of the small rooms that wouldn’t hold more than thirty-five.  Our whole idea was to create an atmosphere that would be home-like and not in any way different from the little gatherings we had at our home in the country, except of course, there would be a little more formality with all those students gathered around a table.”“There would have to be a program of introductions, and somebody speaking, and the food had to be abbreviated because there were no food facilities in Earl Hall to draw on.  I found after on or two experiences that getting together the ingredients of food from a near by delicatessen was a very expensive operation.  What did I do?  I took two suitecases of good size and took the L down to Washington Market.  There I procured for a fraction of what I would have had to pay on the hill, the best butter, eggs, oranges and apples and so forth. I lugged them with my two strong arms through the “L” and up to Earl Hall.” (had no car)“That was the sort of stuff we put into it.  It was physical, mental and spiritual sharing with these young people. Our supper would consist of hot chocolate, maybe some rolls and butter and an apple.” 

The food was funded out of his intercollegiate funds but gave Harry and Florence gave their time.

Sunday Suppers were held at Earl Hall 1910 and 11, 1912-15 on W114th St – 1915 onwards they went back to Earl Hall – not sure how long for but definitely there in 1920.

Intercollegiate Cosmopolitan Club 1920 (from the Club’s literature) “Sunday Suppers Beginning the latter part of October a series of Sunday Suppers will be held in Earl Hall, Columbia University. The object of these suppers is to promote and strengthen ties of friendship between foreign and American students in the several institutions of New York. After supper a short address is usually given by a prominent person on some timely subject. Open forums are also held, in which the members discuss common problems. Supper is served promptly at 6 o’clock—preceded by a reception at 5:30. Members should plan to arrive early so as to get acquainted. The meeting will be over shortly after 7 o’clock, for those who desire to meet other engagements.”

Most quotes from Harry’s memoirs recorded by Berkeley University. Many thanks to Ian Rottenberg from the Earl Hall team for showing us around.

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