Alumni Hall of Fame
Alfred Tredway White
Class of 1865
Pioneer in Housing Reform
(1846 - 1921)
Alfred Tredway White was a leading American housing reformer and philanthropist in the late 19th century. An engineer by training and a businessman by practice, he became deeply concerned with the living conditions of the working poor through his work with Brooklyn’s First Unitarian Church.
In 1877 he constructed the first model tenements in America, which set new standards for tenement housing in their attention to architectural beauty, open space, sunlight, ventilation, and fire safety. He advocated for a “philanthropy plus 5 percent” business model which turned a modest profit, and persuaded other landlords to enter the market for low-income housing. His financial success and public advocacy of his cause influenced passage of New York tenement reform legislation.
White founded charities dedicated to children’s aid and medical care, greatly reducing infant mortality, and created the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which provided green space for the neighborhood’s poor. At his death, White was eulogized as “the great heart and mastermind of Brooklyn’s better self.”