In 1914, philanthropist sisters Alice Lewisohn (1883–1972) and Irene Lewisohn (1892–1944) bought a lot on the corner of Grand and Pitt Streets on New York City’s Lower East Side and founded the Neighborhood Playhouse in 1915. The modest three-story red brick structure, designed by architects Harry C. Ingalls and F. Burrall Hoffman, Jr., showed both motion pictures and theatrical performances.
In 1970, the New Federal Theatre (NFT) was founded by Woodie King, Jr., originally funded by the Henry Street Settlement along with a small grant from the New York State Council on the Arts. The theatre has maintained its production and training programs at Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Arts Center.
The 1975 addition to the Abrons Arts Center was designed by architect Lo Yi Chan of the firm Prentice & Chan, Ohlhausen. The architects sought to sensitively respond to the scale, proportion and mass of the older structure without imitating the neo-classical style of the Playhouse.
Henry Street Settlement restored both the interior and exterior of the Playhouse in the 1996 and 2015.