Little Red School House Founded by Elisabeth Irwin

Elisabeth Irwin founded the Little Red School House in 1921 in the attic room of the P.S. 61 Annex at 535 East 16th Street as an alternative public elementary school. Parents and students loved the new dynamic learning community. It was an exciting place to learn, with a palpable spirit of curiosity, creativity and challenge. The small, red brick building provided  irresistible symbolism and the Little Red School House was born. Irwin’s experiment led a  nomadic existence over the following decade, moving first in 1924 to P.S. 61 at 612 East 12th Street, where it stayed until 1928. However, P.S. 61’s principal and many faculty grew increasingly frustrated with the presence of LRSH, with its philosophy of active learning that clashed with their traditional school environment, and it was forced to move yet again, this time to 116 West 11th Street, P.S. 41

The Little Red School House set up housekeeping on East 16th Street in the fall of 1921. Our first building was really little and of red brick which justified the name that has stuck with us ever since, through many vicissitudes —educational, financial, political, and emotional.

We were happy in our first little building. It was heated with Station Agent stoves; the air was often heavy with the odor of cabbage and onion from next door; the corridors downstairs were dark and musty; the building had all the features of a genuine antique, and it had atmosphere. Our classrooms were gay with cretonnes and bright paint; the hundred children in them were an absorbed and joyous company.

— Agnes Delima, The Little Red School House

To learn more about the founding of the school read “The Little School That Could” by Nicholas O’Han here.