Speyer School: The Essentials of Wholesome Living in the Heart of the City

| July 27, 2010

The Horace Mann School took on the character of an exclusive private school after moving into its own building in 1902. Teachers College students could observe best practices in action at Horace Mann but experimentation and practice teaching became inappropriate.

The College built the Speyer School on 126th Street in the poor neighborhood of Manhattanville to satisfy its continuing need for a laboratory school. Speyer was run in conjunction with the University Settlement House and was concerned with the problems of education and society.

The German-Renaissance style building is a rarity in New York architecture, according to the New York Times. The building was open six days a week until late at night to accommodate community groups. The school’s library was open to the community. The students were taught health and sanitation. Many activities took place on a rooftop garden and the showers in the building’s basement were unique among public schools.

By 1915, Teachers College was shifting emphasis from elementary to secondary education and gradually transferred its interest in Speyer to the New York City Board of Education. Speyer became an experimental school again in 1936 as the site of a five-year project to to see if separating students with special needs from the average students would improve their performance.