190th Discussion Series

Throughout 2021, Rising Ground commemorates the 190th anniversary of the opening of the Leake & Watts Orphan House in lower Manhattan in 1831, the beginning of a rich history that saw the organization evolve from an orphanage to one of New York City’s leading human services organizations. As part of this celebration, we are organizing a discussion series (virtual and potentially live) in partnership with Trinity Church Wall Street, site of the original Leake & Watts Orphan House and longtime partner. Learn more about these discussions and register below!

190 Years of Hope & Opportunity

Evolutions in Child Welfare

Join us on April 27 for our first virtual discussion as we launch an ongoing series of discussions commemorating our 190th Anniversary with a look at the evolution of human services through the lens of New York City’s history. Rising Ground CEO Alan Mucatel will join two experts on New York City history – Dr. Kenneth Jackson of Columbia University and Dr. Daniel Walkowitz of New York University and Dr. Linda Lausell Bryant of New York University, expert on modern-day social work. This inaugural discussion will explore the historical landscape of the 19th century that saw the birth of Rising Ground and so many peers, key social shifts of the past 190 years that have shaped our work and the communities we support, and the role of human services today in the fabric of New York City.

The 19th century saw New York City grow rapidly, as the city grew from a bustling port at the southern tip of Manhattan we today would call the “Financial District” upward. Filling those streets were a rapid growth of new arrivals from the Old World. As immigration saw more and more land shifting to urban sprawl, tenements were filled with newcomers, as animals and vermin lined the streets. In a world where disease and poverty ran rampant, homeless and wayward children did too. By 1870, nearly 12% of school-age children were homeless. Community organizations, mostly along the lines of religious or cultural heritage, sought answers to this growing issue. Many orphan asylums opened their doors during this period, seeking to provide shelter to homeless children and get them off the streets, where delinquent behavior and danger were common.

By then, Leake & Watts Orphan House, originally an orphan asylum near the site of Trinity Church Wall Street, had been caring for children – no matter their “creed or nationality,” as stated in our founding documents – for four decades. As the city grew, it relocated to 112th Street near the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in 1843, and on to a 40-acre plot of land along the Hudson River in Yonkers in 1890. Today, that orphan house has evolved into Rising Ground, a leading, multi-facet human services organization with more than 50 programs across New York City and Westchester.  Evolving to meet the needs of the community for 190 years, the history of Rising Ground mirrors that of so many child welfare and human services organizations. The story of Rising Ground is that of New York, its people, and the social trends that have shaped the fabric of this huge and complex city.

Kenneth JacksonKenneth T. Jackson is Director of the Herbert H. Lehman Center for American History at Columbia University, where he has also chaired the department of history. Among his many notable works, he is editor-in-chief of seminal Encyclopedia of New York City, which was initially published in 1995 by Yale University Press. He worked for more than a decade to create the first major reference tool for the metropolis in almost a century. He has curated multiple exhibits and shared his expertise on the urban landscape and myriad of social issues that comprise the fabric of New York City.


Linda Lausell BryantLinda Lausell Bryant, MSW, Ph.D, is Clinical Associate Professor, Master Teacher, and the Katherine & Howard Aibel Executive-in-Residence at the New York University Silver School of Social Work. Her work at NYU Silver focuses on building the leadership capacity of social workers to have a transformative impact on pressing social challenges. Her career spans 35 years in both the nonprofit and public sectors. For 9 years, Dr. Lausell Bryant served as the Executive Director of Inwood House, and her work in government includes serving as associate commissioner for the Office of Youth Development at ACS. Her dissertation study compared perceived social support for college-going between foster care and non-foster care students. She is the co-author of A Guide for Sustaining Conversations on Racism, Identity and Our Mutual Humanity and the soon-to-be published book Social Work: A Time for Reflection and Reckoning.


Daniel WalkowitzDaniel Walkowitz, Emeritus Professor of Social & Cultural Analysis and History at New York University, is a social and cultural historian who has pioneered efforts to bring America’s past to broad general audiences in books, film and video. His 1999 book, Working With Class: Social Workers and the Politics of Middle-Class Identity (North Carolina University Press) recounts the history of social workers from the nineteenth century to the present with particular focus on public and private sector workers in New York City. His most recent book, The Remembered and Forgotten Jewish World: Jewish Heritage in Europe and the United States (Rutgers, 2018) combines a family history with analyses of heritage tourism in thirteen cities in eight countries.


This series of virtual and/or live lectures will feature with experts in various fields discussing the history of Rising Ground, our role in the evolution of human services, the social issues we address, and our place in the history of New York City. More details to follow.

In September 2021, we will premiere a historic video commemorating Rising Ground’s 190-year history and the lasting and ongoing impact in the lives of New Yorkers in need. Depending on circumstances, the video will be premiered at a special event (live and/or virtual) and shared on our website and social media! Follow us @RisingGroundNY or sign up at www.RisingGround.org/Newsletter to get regular updates!

In March 2022, we will conclude our yearlong celebration with our Annual Awards Gala with special commemoration of our 190th Anniversary. More to follow!

190th Sponsor _ Mutual Of America
190th Discussion Sponsors _ Alliant and Lamb

Learn More

To learn more about our 190th Anniversary activities, please visit www.RisingGround.org/190 or contact H. Aldervan Daly, Executive Vice President for Institutional Advancement at ADaly@RisingGround.org or 212-602-5847.