114-04 14th Road, College Point
The Poppenhusen Institute is no ordinary community center. This massive three-story house dates back to 1868, when namesake Conrad Poppenhusen, a German immigrant, donated $100,000 to build a community school.
The institute offered free vocational training and, starting in 1870, the first free kindergarten program in the United States. At various times since its establishment, it has also served as College Point’s library, bank, courtroom, orphanage and even sheriff’s office. Check out the two remaining jail cells for proof.
In 1973, the institute was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it hosts a variety of music and fitness classes as well as museum exhibits, lectures, children’s workshops, performances and more. It even has its own theater company, E. Phoenix Idealis.
Conrad Poppenhusen died in 1883, but the Poppenhusen Institute continues to carry out his vision as stated in its mission: “To offer the people of the Metropolitan area, life enhancing cultural, recreational and educational programs, either free or at a nominal fee,” and to “provide a warm, welcoming and encouraging environment to all who enter through ‘The Doorway of Opportunity.’”