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Flagg, Ernest (06 February 1857–10 April 1947), architect and urban reformer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Jared Bradley Flagg, a clergyman and artist, and Louisa Hart. After his mother’s death in 1872, Flagg abandoned his formal education and found employment in a series of marginal businesses in New York City. Later he worked as a developer in partnership with his father and brother, an experience that stimulated his interest in architecture and urban reform. Flagg’s cousin ...

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Levitt, Abraham (01 July 1880–20 August 1962), lawyer and housing contractor, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Rabbi Louis Levitt and Nellie (maiden name unknown), immigrants from Russia. Little is known about his parents. Levitt grew up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Because his family was very poor, he was forced to drop out of school at the age of ten to become a newsboy on Park Row. Later he worked as a dishwasher and held other menial positions, such as dock worker and waiter. Nevertheless, he educated himself by avidly reading books, newspapers, and magazines. He later said that by the time he was sixteen years old, he read some part of some book every day; his favorite subjects were history, economics, and philosophy. He also frequently attended lectures at Cooper Union and joined and regularly attended the meetings of various literary and scientific societies. When he was twenty years old, he took and passed a New York’s regents examination to gain entrance to the New York University Law School. Specializing in real estate law, he wrote an outstanding student manual on his specialty when he was a sophomore, the profits from which helped him finish his LL.B. Admitted to the New York bar in 1903, he established a private practice that soon flourished. Three years later he married Pauline A. Biederman; the couple had two sons, ...

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Stokes, Isaac Newton Phelps (11 April 1867–18 December 1944), architect and historian, was born in New York City, the son of Anson Phelps Stokes, a banker, and Helen Louisa Phelps. His education was interrupted by episodes of ill health, but he entered Harvard University in 1887 and graduated in 1891. Stokes worked briefly in banking before he began to study at the School of Architecture of Columbia University from 1893 to 1894. He left without taking a degree and went to Paris to study housing design at the École des Beaux Arts. Improved tenement housing was to be a lifelong interest of his. In 1895 he married Edith Minturn. They had an adopted daughter....

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Veiller, Lawrence Turnure (07 January 1872–30 August 1959), housing reformer, was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the son of Philip Bayard Veiller (pronounced Vay-ay), a broker and factory owner, and Elizabeth du Puy. Because of his father’s widespread business interests, Veiller attended school in New York City, Chicago, and Newton, Massachusetts. After graduating from the City College of New York in 1890, he joined the local Charity Organization Society (COS). Working as a volunteer for COS and the University Settlement in the city’s tenement districts during the depression of 1893, Veiller became convinced that “the improvement of the homes of the people was the starting point of everything.” From 1895 to 1897, as plans examiner at the city Buildings Department, he learned about housing construction and finance. He married Amy Hall in 1897; they had no children....

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Robert C. Weaver Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USE6-D-010813).

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Weaver, Robert C. (29 December 1907–17 July 1997), economist, political administrator, and educator, was born Robert Clifton Weaver in Washington, D.C., the son of Mortimer Grover Weaver, a postal clerk, and Florence Freeman Weaver. Weaver grew up in a middle-class and educated family, one of seven African-American families in a Washington suburb. His father worked for the post office. (One grandfather, ...

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White, Alfred Tredway (28 May 1846–29 January 1921), housing reformer and philanthropist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Alexander Moss White, a wealthy importer, and Elizabeth Hart Tredway. After earning an engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, in 1865, White returned to Brooklyn, worked in his family’s Manhattan importing firm, and, beginning in 1867, taught in the settlement school started two years earlier by young people in the First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn. In 1869 he was asked by his pastor, Alfred P. Putnam, to superintend his church’s settlement work. White’s commitment to the welfare of immigrant children led him almost immediately to confront the appalling living conditions of the urban poor and to inaugurate the housing reform movement....