How many boys could it hold?

Up to 600 if necessary, though I am not sure it ever held that many. More boys stayed in winter than in summer. At Christmas 1899, 400 boys were staying there. One May, 1900 article in the New York Times mentions at least 70 boys staying that day, though it says nothing about the total number. The official 1900 census, taken June 11, shows 81 boys listed as "lodger." (Note: an earlier version of this entry had the number of lodgers as "181," a typing error on my part.)

In all but the coldest weather, newsboys were proud of "carrying the banner," which, despite what the script of Newsies says, means sleeping outdoors. (In fact, the movie newsboys should be the last ones singing about "carrying the banner," but it's such a great musical number we won't hold it against them.)

In winter.

It appears that the house regularly held about 260 beds on the dormitory floors (4th and 5th). Not only was the attic used for storage, but it was also filled with beds and during the winter months would be opened up for use, increasing the capacity to 600.

Building materials?


Ground dimensions?

William St. side: 55 feet.

Duane St. side: 110 feet.

New Chambers St. side: 69 feet.

Back of the building: approximately 75 feet. Since the building was in a thick "L" shape, it is "missing" a small chunk out of the NE corner.

How was the building laid out?

Basement, 1st story:

Rented for use as shops. Unlike in Newsies, there was probably a minimum of space on the ground floor remaining for the Lodging House's use.


Large dining room (seated 165 to nearly 200), kitchen, spacious laundry, store-room, servant's room, rooms for family of Superintendent, reading room.


Contained a large school-room/audience-room, plus bath and washrooms, all fully supplied with cold/hot water. A steam-boiler below provided both the hot water and a means of heating the rooms. The washrooms contained iron basins (washtubs); these tubs--not to mention towels--were at a premium at 6 p.m., which was when the majority of boys entered the LH for the night and were required to wash up. (Newsies has Snipeshooter taking a bath in apparently freezing water, but that would probably not have happened. The movie also puts the washrooms on the same floor as the dormitories.) Campbell says there was also a gymnasium here, but it is likely an error, as numerous other sources state that the gym was on the top floor.

The school-room had two rows of movable desks. At one end was a raised platform for teachers/visitors, and which could also accommodate a piano.

Close by the door in the school-room was another, smaller, platform, surrounded by a railing. The person in charge stood or sat here to register the boys as they entered. Note that Newsies took some liberties with this, putting this registration area on the first floor, and removing the railing.

The boys had lockers for their clothes, which were likely on this floor.

4th & 5th:

Large and roomy dormitories. Campbell says that each had from 50 to 100 beds; another (unidentified, but likely dated 1890's) source says each had 134 beds. They were arranged like ship's bunks, one over other. The beds had wire-spring mattresses, white cotton sheets and plenty of comforters. For these beds the boys paid 6 cents a night each.

There was a room set aside with beds that had curtains around them for some privacy. For 10 cents a boy could hire one of these "private rooms."





The private beds.

Fourteen of these were available to the boys at ten cents a night. The beds were single, not stacked bunks as in the dormitory. Each bed was surrounded by curtains that could be drawn for privacy. There was also a set of wooden lockers (boys using the regular beds had to use the lockers in the school-room on the third floor).

Amongst the boys, the room which held these curtained beds was known as the "dude room," in which dude referred to a fashionable, fastidious man. Despite the higher price, it was said that the private beds were hardly or never empty, as there was no shortage of boys who were willing to pay extra for the luxury of better living quarters.

I am not sure whether the dude room was on the fourth or fifth floor.

And on the roof...?

Here's where it gets tricky. I've seen three exterior photos of the DSLH: one from 1876, one from 1877, and one possibly from somewhere between 1895-1917 (just a guess, but it's definitely post-1895). The two older photos and the newer one show the DSLH from opposite sides.

In the 1876/1877 photos, it shows a gently-sloped roof with a peaked top. The roof was a light color, with the words "Home for Newsboys" (in all caps) painted on it in dark letters.

In the newer photo, the edges of the roof are still sloped, but the top appears to be flatter.

Not sure what to make of the difference yet. A possibility is that since the roof sustained some fire damage Feb. 27, 1900, it might have been re-shaped after.

[Later] Well, it was a good theory. I've now found an 1899 photo, showing the flatter roof, so the 1900 roof fire has nothing to do with it. See the "Images" page for the photos.

More on the roof mystery.

I've found a photo that possibly explains the apparent discrepancy in the roof. How could it be both flat and peaked? In this photo from 1892, along the east side, the wall almost appears to rise above the rest of the roof to form a freestanding triangular wall with "Home for Newsboys" lettered on it. So far I have not been able to locate a photo showing the roof from other angles, so how sloped the rest of the roof was remains a mystery.

Photo is now up on the "Images" page.