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Miss Bourne's Gift To Blind Dedicated

Creator: n/a
Date: October 17, 1912
Publication: The New York Times
Source: Available at selected libraries


During the late nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century, charitable groups all over the country founded sheltered workshops for blind people. These workshops employed people who could not find work on the mainstream labor market; workers generally made brooms, mattresses, or other craft items. Sheltered workshops struggled to compete with mainstream factories and prison labor and, as a result, often could not pay their workers a full wage. Nonetheless, workshops provided employees with at least some income at a time when governments provided little or no financial support for impoverished people with disabilities.

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Workshop in East 35th Street Furnishes Ideal Conditions for Its Occupants.




Visitors, Besides Hearing Speeches of Acceptance, See Actual Working Forces in All Departments.


The Bourne Workshop for the Blind, a new building 338 East Thirty-fifth Street, the gift of Miss Emily Howland Bourne in memory of her family to the New York Association for the Blind, was formally opened and dedicated yesterday afternoon. The presentation of the plant to the association, whose head is Miss Winifred Holt, was made by Lucius H. Beers for Miss Bourne, and was accepted for the association by Herbert Satterlee.


The building is a fine structure, complete in all its arrangements from the roof garden, overlooking the water on one side and St. Gabriel's recreation park in the front, to the shower baths in the basement. It is the first modern factory building for the blind, and already has 50 broommakers and chair caners, and will accommodate 100 more. The cost of the plant was $107,000.


There are two bronze tablets in the office on the main floor of the building. One, decorated with garlands of Autumn foliage yesterday, bore the words:


"Erected by Emily Howland Bourne for the New York Association for the Blind, a memorial to her family."


On the wall opposite are the texts:


"Except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it," and "Except the Lord keep the city the watchman waketh in vain."


Miss Bourne was present at the exercises, and the blind boys of the Summer basket making class, which met in one room of the building while it was being completed this Summer, and who are also the blind boy scouts, gave their cheer for her when she looked in upon them. Led by their instructor, G. H. Longenecker, they shouted:


Rah! Rah! Rah!
Here we are,
Light House Scout Boys,
Ha! Ha! Ha!


Two of the smaller scouts, wearing khaki uniforms, presented Miss Bourne with a basket of red rosebuds. There was warm applause for her during the afternoon whenever she or her gift was mentioned.


There was a distinguished gathering of men to take part in the exercises with Miss Holt and Miss Louisa Lee Schuyler, Vice President of the State Charities Aid Association and Chairman of a Special Committee on the Prevention of Blindness. The opening prayer was by Bishop Greer of New York, psalms were read by Rabbi Leon Judah Magnes, and the benediction was pronounced by the Right Rev. Mgr. M. J. Lavelle.


George Haven Putnam presided and Borough President George McAneny expressed his appreciation and thanks and said Miss Bourne's magnificent gift should be an inspiration to others to aid in the work. Eben P. Morford, Superintendent of the Brooklyn Industrial Home for Blind Men and President of the American Association, Workers for the Blind, who is himself blind, fingered his notes, written on a typewriter for the blind, in the blind alphabet, as he spoke. He said that to this country belonged the credit of putting the industries of the blind on a business basis. There was hearty applause when Mr. Satterlee, in taking the key of the building, said:


"I believe there should be written over the entrance: 'All ye who enter here leave hopelessness behind.'"


Miss Holt told of the pitiful condition in which many of the blind who had been rescued by the association had been found and of their great appreciation of a cheerful place to work. After speaking of the great benefit of the new plant and what must be done with it, she said:


"We are thankful that great generosity has given us this land and this building free from debt, but our Lighthouse, the heart of the work, of which this is the right arm, is heavily mortgaged, and money is sorely needed for the building and for running expenses -- $40,000 for the mortgage, $20,000 for the building, and $60,000 for the running expenses of all our activities. We trust Miss Bourne's luminous example will touch some friend to help us, as she has, where help is so much needed, and productive of such great good, of untold relief and happiness."


Miss Bourne is a New Bedford woman who spends her Winters in New York. She has long been a subscriber to the association, and recently has taken a more active interest in the work.


William Resnifkoff, a blind young man, sang during the exercises, accompanied by Bruno Huhn. His first number was "Lead, Kindly Light, Amidst the Encircling Gloom."


Refreshments were served in the lunchroom of the building at the rear of the fourth floor. On this floor are the rooms of the caretaker of the building. On the third floor are the chair caners, and on the second the broommaking shop, the chief industry of the building, with the office of the Superintendent, De Witt Killinger. At the rear of the first floor corn is stored for the brooms, and the front rooms are offices. All the rooms are flooded with light and air.


Every precaution has been taken against fire, and there are chutes from each floor in which the refuse is sent down immediately and not allowed to accumulate. In every workroom is an automatic sprinkler fed from a large tank on the roof. There is an elevator running to the roof and two flights of stairs. All the departments were running yesterday with their blind workmen and were inspected by the guests. On the main floor the work of the blind women from the Lighthouse on Fifty-ninth Street was shown. The handmade brooms of the blind men are considered superior to the machine-made, and are used by many railroads and hotels.