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Nods for (Former) "Colored" School No. 4

Photo: Elias Williams for NBC.jpeg

Photo: Elias Williams for NBC

"This report draws on Eric K. Washington’s early research, particularly on the many teachers and students associated with the former Colored School No. 4."

 Designation Report, (Former) Colored School No. 4

New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, May 23,2023

Eric's research for Boss of the Grips gave rise to his becoming the preeminent historian and advocate of Manhattan's (Former) Colored School No. 4, where his protagonist had attended grammar school in the 1880s-90s.


In November 2018 Eric initiated and spearheaded the campaign that directly resulted in a unanimous vote by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on May 23, 2023, to designate the extant 1849 schoolhouse at 128 West 17th Street as an individual protected landmark.


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Preservation is driven by many things, but among the oldest and most important: people who see something of value ignored by the rest of the world, who then make it their mission to change that reality. It takes massive amounts of time, energy, knowledge, passion and just plain hard-headedness - and specifically a refusal to take “no” for an answer. The fact is, of course, it just shouldn’t be that hard…. But it still is. So we all have to count ourselves lucky when people like you step up, put their lives on hold, and do what needs doing. Well done!

— Anthony W. Robins, architectural historian and author of

Grand Central Terminal: 100 Years of a New York Landmark

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“I would like to thank Eric K. Washington for bringing it to our attention and sharing research with our research department.”


— Sarah Carroll, Chair

NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

“I also want to thank you and the staff, and Eric K. Washington for bringing this forward to us.”


— Frederick Bland, Vice-Chair

NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

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“I want to especially thank author and historian Eric K. Washington, who brought this historic treasure to the community’s attention and who was the driving force behind this effort. Thank you also to the Chelsea Council of Block Associations, Community Board 4, and Save Chelsea.”


— Hon. Erik Bottcher

New York City Council Member, District 3

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"Congratulations to my friend Eric K. Washington for passion supported by meticulous research that led to this morning's vote by NYC's Landmarks Preservation Commission designating (Former) Colored School No. 4 as a city landmark."

— E.R. Shipp, journalist

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"This designation would not have happened without your research and dedication."

John Freeman Gill, journalist and author


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“The landmark designation and funding for rehabilitation comes years after Eric K. Washington, a historian, began urging the city to protect the building. More than 2,800 people signed a petition in support.


“Mr. Washington learned about the school while researching James H. Williams, the chief porter of Grand Central Terminal’s Red Caps, a group of Black men who worked at the station.


“Mr. Williams attended the former Colored School No. 4 and would have been one of its last students before it closed, Mr. Washington said.”


— Lola Fadulu, New York Times


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“Fantastic news — thank you Eric K. Washington for your perseverance in reaching this landmark milestone!”


— K. Kennedy Whiters, Black in Historic Preservation


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“Three cheers to you,  Eric K. Washington, for leading this campaign for designation! And winning! Bravo--long overdue, and so deserved, so necessary.”


— Marta Gutman, Dean

Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York


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 "You should be so proud of yourself for stewarding this project over several years to ultimate fruition."

— Andrew Cronson, Save Chelsea

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“Eric . . . Congratulations!! It was your work and dedication that did this.”


— David Freeland, historian and author of

American Hotel: The Waldorf-Astoria and the Making of a Century


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“Congratulations, Eric K. Washington! Without your leadership and dedication, this would not have happened.”


— Matthew Spady, historian and author of

The Neighborhood Manhattan Forgot: Audubon Park and the Families Who Shaped It


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“Congratulations — and thank you for waging the long fight!”


— Andrew Meier, author of

Morgenthau: Power, Privilege & The Rise of An American Dynasty


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“This would never have happened without your relentless advocacy, and it is much appreciated!! You have much to teach everyone! Thank you so much for your hard work and commitment.”


— Michele Bogart, urban public arts and culture historian


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“Congratulations, Eric K. Washington, in getting Colored School No. 4 here in Manhattan named a protected landmark!”


— Dr. Vanessa K. Valdés, Associate Provost, City College of New York


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“There are no definite plans, but there are definite aspirations,” said Eric K. Washington, who first requested that the Landmarks Preservation Commission evaluate the site in 2018. “My feeling … is it should be a cultural institution that … would echo its original use.”


— Cayla Bamberger, New York Daily News


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“The effort to landmark the building was spearheaded by historian Eric K. Washington, who uncovered the history of the building while writing his book, Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal, in 2018.”


— Anna Lucente Sterling, Spectrum NY1 News


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“A big win for historian @ekwashington and the community!”

“The commission credited local historian Eric K. Washington for identifying the building's significance. His research revealed the school's role as a cultural hub for the community, and the strength of its leaders, who once protected pupils from a racist mob during draft riots.”


— Jessi Mitchell, CBS New York


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“Historian and author Eric K. Washington fought to make sure the school’s story was not forgotten. In 2018, he filed a formal request with the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission for the building to be designated a landmark.”


— Finn Hoogensen, PIX11 News


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“Historian and writer Eric K. Washington has led an effort to landmark the building since 2018.”


— Devin Gannon, 6sqft


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“That the school’s story came to the attention of the LPC and the greater public in the first place is a story unto itself . . . During the course of research for his 2019 biography, Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal, Eric K. Washington discovered Williams had matriculated through Colored School No. 4. With this fact and further research in hand, he submitted a 2018 Request for Evaluation (RFE) to the LPC.”


— Scott Stiffler, Chelsea Community News


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“Eric K. Washington, who first  brought the building to Landmarks’ attention, stated that the designation was “timely, in light of the integral Black presence in our great four-centuries-old city — it speaks to the woeful absence of sites that attest to that history.” Mr. Washington also highlighted that it was critical to recognize this part of history in light of how other parts of the country are rejecting African American history courses.”


— Veronica Rose, City Land


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"Eric K. Washington is fighting to make sure the story is not forgotten."

— Greg Mocker, PIX11

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“The leading activist behind the push for landmark status was Eric K. Washington, an historian and author. He wrote a book in 2019, Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal, about the life of a man who went to grammar school at ‘Colored school No. 4’ named James H. Williams.”


— Alessia Girardin, Our Town

o0o —

(on the introduction of Sarah Garnet as a character in the HBO Original series, S2-E6)

“I am also really happy that this plot line has been introduced. In real life today, this story is finally receiving more attention, largely because of a years-long campaign that has been led by historian Eric K. Washington in New York, to landmark the historic school building at 128 West 17th Street where Sarah [Garnet] served as principal.”

follow-up post on Facebook:

Thanks for your help on [#TheOfficialGildedAgePodcast] episode, Eric K. Washington! You really helped me understand the story behind the story!

— Tom Meyers, co-host, The Official Gilded Age Podcast

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