Columbia Greenhouse, one of the oldest nursery schools in the country, was founded in 1919 by the wife of a Columbia Zoology professor to meet the needs of young academic families. The program was run for many years in apartments as a play group until Mrs. Henry Crampton and the wife of Columbia’s president, Mrs. Nicholas Murray Butler, found an abandoned greenhouse behind Johnson Hall and convinced the University to renovate it and bankroll its initial operation costs. Thus began a mutually beneficial relationship between Columbia Greenhouse and Columbia University. In 1958 Columbia removed the greenhouse to make way for its new Law School. The University offered Greenhouse classroom and office space at 424 West 116th Street and later at 404 West 116th Street as the school expanded to include additional classrooms.
Columbia Greenhouse has always looked for ways to respond to the changing needs of young, urban families. Core program hours were lengthened until 1 p.m. to include lunchtime. Morning and afternoon class hours remain short for our youngest students, giving them a gentle start to separation and school. As children get older, some benefit from experiencing a longer school day. For those children, an extended day is offered to build and maintain the energy and stamina required to carry oneself through longer activities. Over the years, Columbia University has worked with Columbia Greenhouse to provide superlative educational services to both Columbia families and the local community.