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r.c. williams

New Kid on the Avenue

The former R.C. Williams warehouse, now Avenues School

Today is the first day of classes at Avenues, the new “world school” whose campus is located in a stately former warehouse on Tenth Avenue between 25th & 26th Streets. Over the next few years the school, a for-profit venture conceived by Benno Schmidt (former head of Yale University) and Christopher Whittle (founder of the Edison Project), will open additional campuses in Beijing (2014), Sao Paolo (2015) and London (2016).

A hallmark of the internationally-focused school is multilingualism. What’s unusual about the language approach is that Avenues is committed to making every student fully bilingual within seven years. If you walk through the new building you’ll see that every bit of signage, from elevators to bathrooms, is written in English, Spanish and Mandarin.

Like many people who spend a lot of time on the High Line, I watched the renovation of the old warehouse with great interest. When I was writing my book I did a bit of research into the R.C. Williams Company, the wholesale grocer that commissioned it, but as the renovation neared completion I found myself eager to learn more. With luck I discovered a company history, published in 1936, and it turns out that this firm has a long and rich history as innovators in the wholesale food industry. But the thing I found most intriguing, given the present use of the warehouse, is that from its very first days, beginning in 1809, R.C. Williams was a global enterprise. [continue reading…]