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SGI-USA New York Culture Center

The SGI-USA New York Culture Center has a long, storied history as “The People’s House.” Photo by Ines Leong.

Over a century after 7 East 15th Street first opened in 1887, the SGI-USA restored the building, earning the Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award in 1995.

Designed in the Romanesque Revival style, and originally containing 27 class-rooms, a library and an auditorium, this five-story building first served as a branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association, dedicated to the welfare and education of young women.[1] Following this, it came to be known for its use by labor unions and as a worker’s school.

Before its new beginning as an SGI-USA center, the building’s exterior was in a state of disrepair, with “tarred over” windows, while its interior was a “mish-mash of ’60s and ’70s plastic design.” As part of the restoration, its stone-work was reconstructed, new wood window panes were installed, and 20,000 terra cotta tiles were placed on the pyramid roof.[2]

During his visit to the New York Culture Center on June 15, 1996, Ikeda Sensei remarked on its history: “This building—the New York Culture Center—was, in the early years of this century, the home of the Rand School of Social Science, which served as an institution for adult education. On the side of this building was the truly marvelous slogan ‘The People’s House.’ Further, as it turns out, the American philosopher and educator John Dewey (1859–1952) came to this building to lecture on many occasions.”[3]

In 2007, Sensei also noted the history and significance of the center during his address at the 12th Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting in Kansai: “We have wonderful facilities for kosen-rufu around the world. … The SGI-USA New York Culture Center in New York City is also located in a 120-year-old historic building that is an important cultural property and has been recognized by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.”[4]

Today, it continues to serve as “The People’s House” for the members of New York.

From the February 2023 Living Buddhism


  1. February 21, 1993, The New York Times, p. 1. ↩︎
  2. Ibid. ↩︎
  3. July 5, 1996, World Tribune, p. 16. ↩︎
  4. December 7, 2007, World Tribune, p. 2. ↩︎

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