Life Span: 1889-Present (Original mansion built in 1856)
Location: Halsted and Polk
Chicago Tribune, May 19, 1890
There was a gathering at No. 335 South Halsted street Saturday night that was not chronicled by the society reporter. South Halsted happenings are usually ignored in this Philistine fashion. But this was a notable event that deserves special mention and persuasion.
In my ramblings last week I discovered a letter of invitation addressed to
Mr. Agathno Harbaro,
Fruit Store, East Polk street,
Between the Alley and State street.
Inside the yellow envelope was a printed slip beginning “Mio Carissimo Amico” that warmly urged the recipient to come see Le Signorine Jane Addams and Ellen Starr the evening of May 17 at No. 335 South Halsted street; to bring his family for a visit with American and Italian friends. Some hours were to be passed in “conversazione” and there would be a “concerto musicale,” at which various distinguished maestros and dilettanti would entertain the company.
This unique invitation went on to say that the Misses Addams and Starr were of a distinguished family and that they had come to live among these children of Italy and desired their friendship. After a great deal more in the strain it was signed
Il vostro devotissimo Amico
There is no doubt that Mastro-Valerio is a devoted friend of his fellow-countrymen. Mastro-Valerio is an humble editor of L’Italia, but he is also the Chicago Garibaldi who is trying to lead all the Italians out of the bondage of ignorance. The Signorine Starr and Addams have a good ally in Mastro-Valerio. He opened the door of No. 335 South Halsted street himself the eventful night, looking a Count Cavour, Garibaldi, and Leonardo da Vinci rolled into one.
“Mio carissimo dianora!” he exclaimed in welcome, and ushered me right into a festa of Rome, held in the drawing-room of No. 335 South Halsted street, with Mastro-Valerio as master of ceremonies and the Misses Starr and Addams the central figures.
Agathno Harbaro had “brought his whole family”; so had Giovanni Vecchi and Valentino Riggio and the padrones of South Clark street, the vendors and street-cleaners and fruit-dealers. They came in peasant dress, the American costume being good enough for only ordinary occasions. The women were bare-headed, except for a fanciful scarf from Rome or Florence; the babies wore earrings, and the men long locks and innocent expressions.
“Rosina,” I said at random, holding out my arms to a red-frocked baby. My conjecture was right—her name was Rosina. So was the name of six others.
“Is this Rosina, too?”
“No; Teresina. Here is Rosina,” pointing to an older child. It was a rosy, smiling young matron who sat with two brown-skinned babies on her lap. Her hair was finely braided and filled with silver pins. A lusty young man wearing earrings and long, shining hair and a marital arm about her.
Everybody was smiling, shaking hands, chattering, and gazing a ivory and gold walls, delicate etchings of old statues, and heads of madonnas. A photograph of Humbert and Marguerite was on the mantel.
“Him no great man,” said a grinning Italian.
“Well, who is?”
“Garibaldi, Cavour, the painter, and another—him—Washingtonio!” nodding his head vigorously. “La Signora told us about him. Neva heard before.”
Rosina, the red-frocked one, was passed over heads up to the upper end of the room, where some society people were sitting.
“Society people! We are all society people,” interrupted Miss Starr, who had two Rosinas on her lap and was chattering something that sounded much like the American baby talk.
It was pretty free and easy anyhow. The Italians seemed to feel among friends. They unburdened their simple thoughts and reveled in simple pleasures. The undistinguished family affection among them was something beautiful.
Presently there was singing in Italian. The program was as finely arranged as one of Mme. Patti’s. Then a violin solo with piano accompaniment, Mastro-Valerio acting as a music-rack for Romeo.
The audience applauded heartily but judiciously and the performers all came back. There were more “conversazione” and nusic and then the guests said good night. Rosina cried, and Miss Addams, Miss Starr, and Mastro-Valerio shook everybody by the hand and asked all to come back.
I never saw anything quite like it. Here was a simple emigarnt people invited to spend a social evening with cultivated Americans and enjoying it,. What does it mean?
THE OBJECT SOUGHT.
It is part of a plan. It is a Toynbee Hall experiment in Chicago; a university settlement on South Halsted street living in touch with the uncultivated and under mutual obligations; a college, because there are classes; a club, because a number of people are banded together for social enjoyment. Just two young women—Miss Jane Addams and Miss Ellen Starr—got tired of keeping their culture, and wealth, and social capacity to themselves, to be turned over and over among people who had enough anyhow. And down on South Halsted street were many people who had neither money, time, nor knowledge of how these things are done.
In the beginning of the “People’s Palace” of London; of Walter Besant’s “Palace of Delight”; of “Toynbee Hall” in Whitechaple—a community where the exchange is equal. “All sorts and conditions on men” have a part in it and are instructed.”
Miss Addams and Miss Starr got the inspiration first from one of those “waves of ideas” that become epidemic and get the Patent-Office mixed up. They didn’t talk about it much, but went down to the desired locality, rented a dilapidated old house that was set back from the street and put in order. The walls were made ivory and gold like the Auditorium; there were Venuses wit broken arms, Apollos, heads of Madonnas, art rugs, oak tables, china, silver, porcelain-lined baths, and the latest improved range. Then they went into the highways and byways for their guests.
This is a bill of fare for the week:
The tings they do, the amount of life and thought they set in motion, the practical happiness and help they bring the people with whom they live in touch and give a part in their esthetic, social, and intellectual life—literally in touch. These young women believe that all luxury is right that can be shared. They have taken their books, pictures, learning, gentle manner, esthetic taste—all—down to South Halsted street. This is how they are shared.
From 9 to 12 a kindergarten under the direction of Miss Dow is held in the long drawing-room. In the afternoon the kindergarten furniture is removed and the hall is devoted to the use of various clubs and classes. With its beautiful walls and pictures it is easily tyurned into a drawing-room with the addition of a rug and chairs.
Monday afternoon this drawing-room is filled with Italian girls who sew and play games, and dance, and the little ones cut out pictures and paste them in scrap-books. Sometimes they take a bath when they can be convinced of the beauty of the porcelain tubs, and clean clothes are talked about as a desideratum.
Every day the laundry is at the disposal of those who wish to make use of it.
Monday afternoon a club of young women meets and reads Romola, aided by pictures of Florence, contemporary art, and lectures by Miss Starr on Florentine artists. Mastro-Valerio talks about the Medici and Savonarola. Monday evening belongs to the French, who are reviewing the old salons of Paris. Music, conversation, and coffee form the excuse for a brilliant evening, with an occasional lecture on Marie Antoinette and kindred subjects.
Tuesday afternoon the Schoolboys’ Club meets, gets books from the circulating library and has reading aloud. At the same time a girls’ cooking class is at work in the kitchen. In the evening the boys come back and a have a lecture on what to do in emergencies, or simple chemical experiments. One class is reading Shakespeare and others not so far advanced are studying the three Rs.
Wednesday evening the Workingmen’s Discussion Club has the floor. Thw membership is already twenty-five, and many others who are interested attend. The Rev. Jenkin Lloyd Jones, Mr. H. D. Lloyd, or some other well-known man delivers a short address, which is followed by the freest discussion on strikes, labor unions, the eight-hour quaestion, child labor, etc.
Thursday afternoon Dr. Lelila Bodell talks to the women on physiology and hygiene and how to raise healthy children, even near the Chicago River. A cooking class is also being instructed. Thursday evening the German population turns out en masse for a social evening of reading, music, and “cakes and ale.”
Friday afternoon the Schoolgirls’ Club comes in to sew, embroider, and cook, each taking home a book from the library. Friday evening the working girls come in to enjoy a lecture or concert, and Saturday evening there is a typical Italian entertainment. Already they have celebrated Washington’s birthday, witnessed a comedietta by the Circola Salvini, and been entertained by the Mandolin Club of the North Side.
These entertainments are crowded.
When I visited No. 335 South Halsted street Friday afternoon the play-room was full; five rooms were occupied by schoolgirls who were sewing and listening to a young lady read “Christmas Carols” or Twice-Told Tales.” A cooking class was turning out eggs in every style in the kitchen; the bath-room was occupied, and a heap of sand kept half a dozen diligent pie-makers busy. The long porch was filled with children who were arranging violets and buttercups into bouquets.
Lectures and concerts and classes and parties—work and play and social enjoyment. And then the life in the background—the daily contact of these opposite classes, the individual give and take that can not be measured except by posterity.
One of the most successful and enjoyable of the London Toynbee Hall experiments is the art exhibits in the “People’s Palace.” Before the pictures go to the academy they come to the people. Ruskin encouraged this. Holman, Hunt, Watts, Whistler, and Wilde talk it up so that it is fairly a cult. Bad pictures are being taken out of the shop windows, and for a penny Whitechapel can see “The Triumph of the Innocents” before St. James can pay a guinea for the same privilege.
Why not here?
There is a wide, bright livery stable at No. 331 South Halsted street that could be secured for a moderate rental. Skylights could be put in and the brick walls decorated. Then it could be a gallery for loan exhibits, a studio for instruction, a dance-hall.
“Why not?” says Miss Starr. “The worst thing about these crowded districts is the fact of there being no private places for dancing. Young people will dance. These people cannot do it in private houses—hence public halls. Why niot a dance where the amusement could be indulged in innocently and without danger?”
It is expected, too, that a college-extension course on the plan of the university annex of Toynbee Hall will be realized. This has already been mediated by college women and several men and women have volunteered to give instruction. For these things a small fee will be charged and this new movement is to greater than any charity.
Chicago Tribune, November 1, 1891
Almost every one is just now engaged in cherishing some theory more or less erroneous on the subject of working-girls. Actual knowledge of the conditions that govern wage-earners and of the spirit in which they meet the advance of those who are honestly interested in their welfare is, however, rare. Contact with them as well as with the earnest men and women who are working beside them for humanity’s sake is the only means of acquiring such knowledge. To become a part of that pleasant household on South Halsted street, the members of which are known in the neighborhood as “the Hull House people,” to have met in a social, neighborly way those who live near it, to have “dropped in” to their clubs, to have visited their houses, is to have all one’s preconceived ideas of the so-called working classes hopelessly shattered, and to entertain in their place an entirely new set, founded not upon theories, but facts. Out of the experience and observations afforded by a week of such residence at the Hull House a Tribune reporter tells her story.
Not that it hasn’t been told after a fashion before. Ever since its foundation the Hull House has been persistently and periodically “written up,” but because it is impossible to give from the outside an adequate idea of the many interests that it stands for, these reports have been fragmentary and one-sided, unjust alike to its work and to its friends and supporters.
This is how Hull House came to be. There lived in Illinois, not so many years ago, a little girl who held distinct and decided views of her own on the sort of house she would live in when she grew up. She used to say:
When I have a house, it shan’t be in a row with a lot of other fine houses. It shall be big and splendid, and there’ll be pictures in it and books and pretty things, but I’ll have it where all the little, dingy houses are so that the people who don’t have very much that’s bright can come and visit and enjoy it all.
Two years ago the little girl, grown into a woman, rented part of a big, square house om South Halsted street, known thereabouts as the “old Hull place.” brightened it with her pictures and “pretty things,” and, with a friend and one maid, went to live in it. This household differed no whit from that of any other quiet, cultivated, well ordered home in Chicago, save that its members strove to answer, in the light of the broad Christian philanthropy of the nineteenth century, the question “Who is my neighbor?”
Never was there a better opportunity to put the term “neighborliness” to a practical test and to find out how deep and how far-reaching is its meaning. Between Halsted street and the river lie about 10,000 Neapolitans and Sicilians, a distinct Italian colony. South of Hull House are Germans, Poles, and Russians, merging into a large Bohemian settlement; west are Canadian-French, and north are Irish. All these people stood much in need of practical friends to whom they could fo freely and without suspicion of “red-tape-ism” for advice, to whom they could take even trivial matters if they chose and be relieved of the load of apprehension which even little things under some circumstances cause. They wanted some to take care of their babies in working hours, some one to visit their sick, some one tp devise ways and means of keeping their children off the streets in the evening.
Such friends they found in the inmates of Hull House, and those who, seeing the need, quickly associated themselves worth it. In the same spirit in which it was offered the friendly assistance of Hull House was accepted. The college extension classes were quickly taken advantage of; clubs were formed; a kindergarten was established. Finally it became necessary to take the whole house in order to carry on the work properly, then to secure a little cottage next door for a crêche, and shortly another to accommodate the cooking classes.
The erection of the Butler library building marked a distinct marked a distinct step forward, as did the gymnasium, the pride, joy, and desire of every small boy in the vicinity, opened only a short time ago in a neighboring building that last winter was devoted to bad whisky and fighting dogs. The fact that all this has been accomplished in two years tells something of the existing need of the work as well as the success and appreciation it has met.
From attic to cellar Hull House expresses the objects and aims of those who make it their home. Its furnishings, to be sure, are those of any other private house in which refinement and good taste reign. But its atmosphere of brisk, cheery helpfulness few other houses possess. Down from the walls, wherever there is space, look the tender faces of mothers and children; rugs draperies, and blazing hearth-fires make the rooms warm and cozy, and books are everywhere.
Perhaps the most attractive room in the house is on the right as one enters the hall. It is long and fairly wide. In the center is an above with a slightly raised platform, just large enough to accommodate a piano and a few chairs. The floor is of hardwood, and the walls are hung with etchings and photographs of Millet’s pleasant women and children. Here the clubs meet, here the concerts and lectures are given, and here, too, the kindergarten is held five mornings out of each week. Life never stagnates at Hull House. With a different program for each day, with seventy-five young teachers coming and going all the week through, with neighborly calls and visits, how can it?
One is awakened, not too early in the morning, by the soft whirr of a sawmill near by or by somebody’s trespassing chanticleer just under one’s window. Breakfast over, there is the kindergarten. One visits it of course, and, seated upon a painfully small chair in a charmed circle composed of dark-eyed Madelenas and freckled Patsys and staid little Gretchens, one sings with commendable zest and vigor, “Good morning, Merry Sunshine; how did you wake up so soon?” and learns weird, fascinating tales about finger-tips and their hitherto unsuspected possibilities. When this pastime grows tame and monotonous every one marches round and round the room led by Miss Mary McDowell, who has charge of the department, one of her assistants playing gay music airs upon the piano the meanwhile. After that there is some pretty work with strips of bright colored paper, or bits of sticks, or big round balls, all new and absorbing to these children. The little things are on the whole very well behaved. Sometimes somebody with a fancied ill whimpers pathetically in her crumpled bit of a pocket handkerchief until she forgets her woes in some new phase of kindergarten instruction. Sometimes, too, events that take place outside the schoolroom prove more interesting than those within it. But these are very human weaknesses and failings that are not by any means peculiar to South Halsted street.
Monday is a busy day Hull House, and the twenty kindergarten children are, after all, only a drop in bucket. All day long the front-door bell jingles, and all day long there are eager inquiries for Miss Adams and Miss Starr from people who wants baths, from young girls who want to join the college extension classes, from men who want to put up stoves, from women who are out of employment, women whose husbands have deserted them, women whose children are dying.
In the afternoon all the little Italian girls in the neighborhood who are large enough to wear a thimble and hold a needle without too serious consequences to themselves, gather in the club room and in the dining room for their weekly sewing lesson. Such a clattering pf small tongues! Such flashing of dark eyes! Such quaint, picturesque little figures in queer old-womanish print gowns that reach to the heels of the heavy clumping cowhide shoes. Hair demurely parted in the middle and strained back in two braided bobs, fastened up with obtrusive hairpins; gold earrings dangling against the dark cheeks, and (crowning grace of those toilets) bright neckerchiefs of some splendid, striking color knotted about their shoulders. The younger children, who are learning to set the first irregular, halting stitches in aprons and bags and bits of “patchwork,” are in the long club-room under the charge of teachers who bring to South Halsted street the practical knowledge acquired on Prairie avenue in Kenwood.
In the dining-room is the “advanced” class, absorbed in the mysteries of cutting and putting together in a logical fashion muslin underclothes. On the sideboard is a great shining tin dish-pan filled to the brim with marigolds, and germaniums, and sweet old-fashioned mignonette—an explanation, perhaps, of the presence of some of these light-hearted, carefree little daughters of Italy, to whom a whole afternoon of serious application to anything but play must be irksome to a degree. But all the children love flowers—none more than these.
And after the sewing is all folded neatly away, the awkward thimble and troublesome needle safely hidden in the depths of the sewing-bag for another seven days; when all the hats and coats have been given to their rightful owners, then that dish-pan is moved out into the hall and every child receives from Miss Addams’ hands a bunch of flowers for her very own. It is worth traveling a long distance just to see this distribution, the joy in it is so evident. With a funny compromise between a bow and a curtsey, a “thank you, teacher,” and a face wreathed in smiles, each child receives the bit of bloom and fragrance. A very little girl, crowned with elegance in the shape of a battered straw hat, on which a draggled, sometime white ostrich feather waves proudly, steps forward with an assumption of virtuous worth all cut of proportion to her size and says, “Please give me a lovely one, teacher.” She accepts the assurance that “they are all lovely” graciously and goes away radiantly good-natured with the rather inferior nosegay that happens to fall to her share. Good nature is, indeed, the keynote to the afternoon. Reproof is powerless to dispel it, and it withstands even pricked forefingers.
In the evening there are college extension classes, and beside the bright, refined-looking young women who attend them there comes to Hull House a jolly, rollicking crew of younger girls who belong to Miss Addams’ “Monday Night club.” A few of them are school girls, but most are busy in shops and factories during the day. People who are still young enough to remember their early days at boarding-school do not need to be told about this club meeting. They know just how much giggling there is, how much chatter about nothing at all, how many objections to the unwelcome tidings that members are behindhand in their dues, how much interest in the actual business of the meeting and the literary or social program. Girls are girls the whole world over.
It happened to be a Longfellow evening, and after the business has been brought to a satisfactory end, and the “critic” has read a scathing review of the last meeting, the rosy-cheeked President announces the subject and awaits developments. Some one tells the story of Longfellow’s life; another girl adds something new to the account; a third reads one of the descriptive poems. After that there are quotations all around the club—most of them apt and well chosen; one or tewo a bit misquoted, and therefore funny.
“Life is real, life is earnest, and the jail is not our goal,” repeats one girl soberly, but nobody sees the joke. The pretty President, who is perhaps 15, gives her selection the famous definition of “girlhood,” “Standing with reluctant feet where the brook and river meet,” and everybody seems to feel that there is a pleasant fitness in it. By and by the boys’ club, which has been playing checkers and hearing all about Gen. Grant over ion the Butler library, where it meets, comes en masse, and there are jolly games and a great deal of laughter and chatter until 9:15.
Meanwhile algebra and geometry have been going on in the dining-room. Up-stairs in one of the chambers an ex-Wellesley girl has been teaching half a dozen other girls “how to put words together.” In the reception room Miss Ellen Starr has been conducting a class in art history, assisted by some photographs and the bright, keen minds of the young women who are interesting themselves in the subject—shop-girls, every one of them. Over in the studio, too, there has been an enthusiastic class in drawing.
Tuesday morning brings the usual round of calls and visits, the afternoon a club of small, wriggling boys, who, in spite of the attractions of the street and their extreme youth, honestly enjoy their organization and the stories that are read to them by interested friends. The “Tuesday club” occupies the club room in the evening. It is composed of a younger set of girls than the “Monday club,” many of them cash or errand girls. A little restless under readings from “The Life and Letters of Louisa Alcott,” they grow wild with enthusiasm over the popular and exciting diversion of pinning tails to a meek little cloth donkey.
Perhaps there is no better place to speak of the purpose and government of these clubs of boys and girls. The object is evidently that of bringing young people together not only for mutual improvement but social intercourse as well. It is a part of Miss Addams’ plan to arouse the dormant social spirit of the neighborhood, and so allowing that which the people themselves possess to work them great good. The membership fees are slight—only ten cents as month—and are for the most part promptly paid. They go into the treasury of the club and are hoarded until there is quite a sum, which is expended in any way the club chooses. Sometimes for serious, sometimes for purely frivolous things. One of the girls’ clubs, having saved the magnificent amount of $13.50, has decided to give a ball, inviting its male friends. Each club has its own officers and governs itself as efficiently as any club in clubdom. Besides the papers and discussions and readings a part of each evening is given up to pure play, the value and delight of which can be properly appreciated only by active young people who all day long are “at business.” Once a month—crowning delight of the club life—there is dancing.
Modern history, political economy, Latin (beginners), Cæsar, Ovid, American constitutional law, and English literature (Lowell). These are some of the Tuesday night classes. They are ably conducted by young college men and women, who are glad to give their time and thought to Hull House a few nights out of each week. Although they are open to both sexes it is a curious fact that they are attended almost exclusively by girls—teacher, dressmakers, milliners, bookbinders, shop and factory girls. For a course of twelve lessons 50 cents is charged, which suffices to pay the printing expenses connected with the classes, but is not enough to bar out any who may desire to attend them. During the rest of the week courses are offered in singing, French, German, Italian, Shakespeare, Hawthorne, chemistry (with laboratory practice), electricity (with experiments), biology, painting (oil), modeling, mechanical drawing, and French literature.
The “Social Science club,” which meets Wednesday evening, is interesting in many ways. The members are mostly men of as many creeds as trades—agnosticism, Catholicism, atheism, stern orthodoxy, even anarchism has its representative. They are men who think, and are not afraid of expressing their opinions. Papers relating to the various branches of social science are read and thoroughly discussed, and sometimes there is a hot war of words, which results only in sharpening the wits and smoothing off the sharp mental edges of those who engage in it.
Thursday evening is sacred to lectures and concerts. Whole families flock to Hull House on these nights, the club-room is filled, and the overflow is often obliged to find seats in the hall. The schedule of lectures and concerts for the season, beginning Oct. 1, indicates better than anything else perhaps their character.
Early Friday evening the good German neighbors begin to arrive, some with their knitting, some with their children, others content to sit with folded hands and enjoy in well-earned idleness the music, the reading, the friendly gossip of this gala night. Some one is at the piano, and out of the quaintest little German song books are sung, “Die Lorelei” and “O Tannenbaum.” The elder women sing with gusto, their brows growing smooth and their faces young as they repeat the familiar words. The young women and the little girls pipe in uncertainly, with that lack of confidence in their power over the German gutterals that American nativity engenders,. After everybody’s favorite has been sung “William Tell” is read aloud. Then there are more songs, coffee and macaroons are served, and the German club is resolved into a “kaffee klatsch.”
Hull House is nothing if not cosmopolitan. Hardly has one broken one’s self of framing disconnected sentences out of the wreck of an early German education when one is confronted by a new set of people of totally different character and speech. German Friday id followed by Italian Saturday. Men who are busied all in roadmaking, great over-grown boys suffering from bashfulness, mothers in gay neckerchiefs with two or three babies hanging to their skirts and sometimes another in their arms, little lads and demure little lassies—all help to make Saturday night picturesque. At the low tables knots of men and boys gather intent upon learning how to write their names, “Inglese.” And when once the awkward fingers have succeeded in guiding an obstinate pencil through a word that resembles ever so remotely the copy there is a wonderful lighting up of the dark faces. The women nurse their funny little swaddled babies and look on admiringly the meanwhile.
“No children unless accompanied by parents;” this is the rule of the Saturday evening gathering; but when three small boys apply meekly for admission Miss Addams relents, stipulating only that the hands and faces shall be first thoroughly scrubbed. Three small figures cross the front yard swiftly, there is a great deal of splashing in a convenient watering trough near by, and presently they reappear for inspection. There is a distinct “color line” extending from the ear to chins, but faces are undeniably cleans, the hands passably so, and entrance is gained. For a time these restless young spirits content themselves with showing off their public school acquirements, but this amusement finally palls and somebody asks in faultless street English. “Ain’t yers git nothin’ ter play wid?” The hint is acted upon, checkerboards are brought out, and young Italy spends the rest of the evening in mastering the great American game.
No description of Hull House would be complete without some recognition of the crèche and the diet kitchen. Both are separated from the main building by a generous yard of crunching sand. In the little four-roomed cottage, which is devoted to the interests of the day nursery, are thirty babies—American, Italian, Irish, German, Hewish—ranging all the way from 3 months to 4 years of age, waiting until their mothers shall come from work to take them home, and meantime having a glorious time in baby fashion. They roll about the floor; they build wonderful houses of of battered blocks; they cry and are comforted; they sleep for long hours in clean little cribs. If they are in the proper condition of mind and body and like the appearance of their visitors they will sing—the oldest of them—little songs in quavering baby voices. The prettiest time to see them is at luncheon in the afternoon. They are peculiarly susceptible to the cheering influence of bread and molasses and milk, theirs is a truly jovial board. “Hence dull care of dolls and picture books,” they seem to say. An they beat upon the table with their spoons and jingle them in their mugs, anoint their faces with molasses, and crow at each other and laugh, and are altogether the happiest, most rollicking set of babies in Chicago.
A few steps from the créche is the diet kitchen, the province of Miss Theodosia Stiles. The freshness and daintiness of its appointments would rejoice the soul ofan old-fashioned New England housewife. Its pots and pans, its holders, lifting cloths, and dish towels are all beyond reproach. Food for the sick at the cost of the material is furnished every day in the week. Thursday morning Miss Stiles prepares beef-tea, chicken or mutton broth, lemon jellies, cereals and gruels of various kinds, custards with a milk basis, and fever drinks before such of the women of the neighborhood as are interested in sick-room cooking.
Thursday and Friday afternoon and Saturday mornings there are classes in cooking not only for housekeepers but for working girls, and school girls as well. White caps and aprons fly about briskly at these times, pots are watched anxiously and boil in spite of it, and some delicate, appetizing dishes are turned, piping hot, out of the oven. when everything is done to a turn a table is set with the pretty blue kitchen china, and the class feasts for a season, learning, while it makes the acquaintance of properly prepared food, some practical lessons in serving. Washing up may not be as popular as cooking and “tasting,” but it is cheerfully and neatly done, and everything is in “apple-pie order” before the class breaks up. A charge of five cents is made for these lessons, to cover the cost of the materials used.
One of the best and most effective features of the work at Hull House is the system of family visiting, in which several refined women besides the residents of Hull House are interested. It is pleasant, in spite of the almost helpless poverty with which one os confronted, to go to Miss Julie Hintermeister, herself a Swiss woman commanding most of the modern languages, among the Italians. Up rickety stairs, down dingy alleys, one follows her to find in some poor room of a swarming tenement a warm, smiling welcome and evidences of family life that is happy, and content, and trustful in spite of its conditions. Suspended from the ceiling of many of these rooms, which serve as bedroom, kitchen, dining-room, and parlor for whole families, are long strings of red peppers brightening the place with their splendid color. If there are not too many children there are pillow-shams and a white coverlet upon the fat, foreign-looking bed, some highly-colored prints upon the walls, and a couple of candles burning under a crude picture of the Virgin, carefully guarded against possible desecration by flies or water-bugs by a covering of pink mosquito netting. A savory mess of meat and vegetables is always simmering upon the stove. In some places the dirt and vermin are beyond expression, it is true, but in others there is an evident expression, often surprisingly successful effort to keep both houses and children clean. No matter what the surroundings, the hearty welcome, the light-hearted chatter, and the serene good-nature are always the same. By reporting nuisances, by giving advice about physicians and instructions in regard to hospitals, by giving more than this—sympathy and sincere affection—Miss Hintermeister has not only made these people her friends, but has been of much practical assistance to them.
One might write columns about the summer school at Rockford, which Hull House people conducted last summer with such success, about the library reading room, about the gymnasium, but a word in regard to the management of Hull House must suffice. There is no organization for carrying on the work, no association, nor club, nor charity. It is rather an attempt to prove that the individual can do far better than any society. The residents in the house pay all their own expenses and work without salary.
Through the kindness of the owner, Miss Helen Culver, no rent is paid for the house. An income of $100 per month for janitor, gas, heat, etc., is contributed by “tens,” the members of which pledge $5 a year for this purpose. The various departments which have grown out of the first simple housekeeping are supported by individuals who have money, faith in the work, and a desire to assist in it. More than one Chicago “society
girl gives half her allowance and economizes in gowns and bonnets in order that South Halsted street may be brightened and “grow in grace.”
Miss Jane Addams, the head of Hull House, to whom its success is largely due, is not only a woman of tact, good sense, and keen sympathy, but at the broadest charity as well. She devotes herself, her time, her wealth to Hull House, but without the slightest sense of sacrifice. “It is the work I must do,” she herself says, “because it is the work I love.” Miss Ellie Starr, who has been associated with Miss Addams from the first, ably assists in carrying out Hull House plans and in looking after the many interests. To become the aid and center of the intellectual activity of an industrial neighborhood, and not an educational center alone, but a social center embodying the traditions of hospitality and kindly intercourse which became so nearly lost in certain parts of the city where people move too often to have local attachments and give most of their energies to earning a living—this successfully stated is the object of Hull House. In carrying it out as fully and in as many directions as circumstances seem to demand, it is beset by two dangers—that of outgrowing its personal neighborly character and becoming more of an institution than a private house and that of being adopted as a sort of charitable “fad” by society. Either contingency would defeat the end in view, and this, perhaps, explains the fear that Miss Addams sometimes expresses “lest she and those who are associated with her may receive more than they shall be able to give.”
Chicago Tribune, October 26, 1899
Hull House, the pioneer in Chicago’s settlement work, yesterday celebrated its tenth anniversary and formally opened the new building just added to those flanking the central structure, in three small rooms of which Miss Jane Addams and Miss Ellen Gates Starr began the work now such a powerful agent in the solving of the social problem during September, 1889. There was no formality in the anniversary ceremony. The children laughed their way through classrooms and kindergarten as usual, the worn benches in the brick-paved entry court held their loiterers, and the daily visitors from the narrow, nearby streets gathered for the customary “visiting” gossip.
The first evidence of the significance of the day was in the slightly elaborated program and luncheon of the Women’s club in the afternoon. Last night the friends who have aided the efforts of Miss Addams and watched the growth of the movement met at an informal reception, and listened to a brief address by Miss Addams. Visitors were there from the settlement district, who during their years of residence in the Nineteenth Ward had been constant witnesses of the many reforms which the transformation of the old Hull mansion of 1856 to its present uses had secured for the neighborhood.
Story of Anniversary Day.
“Anniversary day” was characteristic of the every day life of the settlement. The early morning brought the mothers and their children, the little ones being left to play about the little dining tables in the kindergarten. The coffee-house was as busy as ever at 7:30 o’clock. At 9 o’clock the nurses and workers hurried away to their duties as usual. The kindergarten training class of older boys and girls kept at its work in the afternoon, the children making for the playgrounds during the session of the Woman’s club of the settlement.
Each of the 160 members of the latter organization had invited a friend to hear the program of music and recitation. At the close there was a general meeting in the dining-room and a half-hour’s discussion and gossip over luncheon. In the outer court groups of men chatted on the benches and watched the cable cars jangle by, dodged by Halsted street shoppers. The evening reception brought the crowding of halls and rooms and rooms of all the settlement buildings.
Idea Behind Hull House.
Aside from tracing the progress made by the settlement Miss Addams was averse, as was Miss Starr, to discussing her own work. She said:
Hull House was started with the definite idea that it should be a social settlement. It was opened on the theory that the dependence pf classes on each other is reciprocal, that the social relation is essentially a reciprocal relation. One of the motives constituting pressure of such a settlement was the desire to make the entire social organism democratic. ‘Bossism’ in politics causes scandal. Yet it goes on in society constantly without being challenged. Hull House has sought to relieve over accumulation at one end of society and the destitution at the other. I believe there will be no wretched quarters in our cities when the conscience of each man is so touched that he prefers to live with the poorest of his brethren and not with the richest of them that his income will allow.
What Hull House has accomplished speaks for itself.
And with this keynote little time time was spent in eulogy of the ten years’ work. The new building is expected to have far-reaching effect, and to this fact close attention was drawn. The lower floor has been made an extension of the coffee-house, recently built, and, as an initial step, is expected to supply the locality with a good, cheap restaurant. The auditorium on the upper floor, with its fully equipped stage, will bring about a great development of good players are now being formed by the resident teachers and Miss Addams. The hall will be used for recitals and in connection with the university extension c ourses which have been outlined for the winter.
Hope for Much from Drama.
The hall was first opened a week ago last Monday night with a dancing party by the Young People’s club of the settlement, and the first play was produced on the evening following, when members of the Men’s club presented “The Chimney Corner.”
Miss Addams said:
The drama is a most powerful factor in life and we propose no longer to neglect its development here. Children have come to me and stated that they couldn’t ‘remember what had been said to them,’ but they did remember ‘what they had seen in the play.’
“Hull House influence in this direction made life particularly pleasant for the volunteers during the Spanish war,” is the testimony of James Dwyer, whom played a part in “The Chimney Corner.” Mr. Dwyer enlisted in 1898, but was held in the Pennsylvania camps. There he organized a theatrical company and a number of plays were presented.
“It was just like the winters at Hull House,” said he, “and the effect on the boys was splendid. For the idea we all thanked the work of Miss Addams and Miss Starr.”
The new building is 75 feet long and 29 feet wide, its construction being marked chiefly by the peculiar arrangement of the windows, which admit light and air to every nook of the big coffee room. From it direct entrance is afforded to the coffee-house proper, with its stained rafters and its rows of china mugs.
Seats for 300 people are provided in the auditorium, which will relieve the gymnasium located above the old coffee-rooms of the handicap of conflicting entertainments which previously were accommodated here. The land on which the new building stands was donated by Miss Helen Culver and the construction expense of $25,000 was met by subscription.
Charles J. Hull Mansion
Growth of the Settlement.
Ten years ago the present Hull house was represented by but three rooms in the central building at Halsted and Polk streets, with Miss Addams and Miss Starr entering on the work supported by the encouragement of confident friends. The old house had stood as a mansion in 1856, when it was built by Charles J. Hull, a real estate dealer. There were green fields about the place then and the water of the Chicago River was drinkable. In 1871 the great fire broke out only four blocks away, but the Hull mansion was untouched by the flames. For the next eighteen years the residence served as aWashingtonian home, as a home for the Little Sisters of the Poor, and then as a tenement.
“There were a number of families in the building, a cabinet shop on the first floor, and undertaker’s place to the left, and a saloon to the right when we came here,” said Miss Addams.
The first steps involved the establishing of a story-hour for children, a few afternoon teas, and the steady campaign to secure wide acquaintance in the neighborhood. Classes were organized, the creed that “social service to those destitute of privilege must be personal service” was followed rigorously. Soon a third story was built on the old building. Then the present Children’s Home supplanted the undertaking shop, the coffee-house was built in Polk street, and the Jane club building in Ewing street. In 1894 the Hull House association was incorporated and a lease on the property secured until 1920.
Hull House faces many different foreign colonies. Among those who are visitors and participants in its life are natives of China, Holland, Germany, Belgium, France, Greece, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Mexico, Italy, Lithuania, Bohemia, Sweden, and many other lands. More than forty-seven educational classes are now maintained.
In Many Social Movements.
Among those at the reception last night were many who have aided in the political force the settlement has exerted. Many reform epochs were recounted in the whirl of conversation. In 1893 Hull House influence brought the enactment of the first labor law prohibiting the employment of children under 14 years of age. In the railroad strikes of 1894 Miss Addams served as a member of the Arbitration committee; the garment-workers had headquarters there during their strike in 1896; three dietary investigations were conducted there under the Department of Agriculture; the saloon investigation of 1896 by the Committee of Fifty on the Liquor Problem centered at Hull House, and this was a distributing relief center during the out-of-work emergency of 1891. Reform in the removal of garbage was secured partially through Miss Addams herself bidding for the contract some years ago.
“We shall continue on the same line, striving to extend our work in every possible avenue—that’s all I can say for the future,” was Miss Adams’ closing comment last night.
Some of the Guests.
Among those who heard the brief addressers of Miss Addams and Miss Starr in the new auditorium were:
Among those who sent regrets were Dr. E.Benjamin Andrews, Mrs. Emmons Blaine, ex-Governor John P. Altgeld, Dr. W. R. Harper, and Dr. Henry Wade Rogers.
The evening classes in the children’s building were not interrupted. Formal speech-making was not allowed, as Miss Addams and Miss Starr desired the reception to be an “informal family affair,” as the former expressed it.
Chicago Tribune, March 6, 1963
Trustees of Hull House accepted a city offer of $875,000 yesterday for the famous settlement house properties at 800 S. Halsted st. to make way for the new University of Illinois campus.
Mrs. Emmett Dedmon, president of the Hull House board, said the properties, consisting of 13 buildings on slightly more than a block, would be vacated by April 1. With the exception of one structure, the razing of the buildings for the campus is expected to start almost immediately thereafter.
Social Work to Continue.
The exception will be the original Hull House mansion, built in 1856, which will be restored as an old-fashioned two-story brick farm house. It will be a memorial to Jane Addams, founder and pioneer social worker.
The razing of the Hull House properties, however, will not end the Hull House social work, which began 74 years ago when Miss Addams and her friend, Ellen Starr, moved into the old Hull Hiuse to establish what was to become the most famous operation of its type in the world.
As part of a new “decentralization” program, Mrs. Dedmon announced that Hull House will establish its new headquarters at 3212 Broadway.
Aerial view of the cluster of buildings comprising Hull House settlement, which the city ios buying for $875,000. Land will be utilized as part of the west side campus for University of Illinois. Arrow indicates the original Hull mansion, which is to be retained as a memorial to Jane Addams.
Optimistic on Purchase.
The sale removes one of two obstacles in the acquiring of an initial 45 acres of slum clearance property to permit a start on the new U. of I. campus by May. Still to be acquired the city’s urban renewal department is a five-year-old one-story modern building housing the Holy Guardian Angels school, at Blue Island avenue and Arthington street. The school property is reportedly valued at approximately $500,000.
“We are very optimistic that negotiations can be completed quickly to permit ground breaking in May for the university campus,” said John Duba, city urban renewal commissioner.
Dining Hall (left, on wheels) rolling along timber supports to final destination (perpendicular to current location). University of Illinois at Congress Circle (renamed Chicago Circle prior to 1965 opening).
Chicago Tribune, January 20, 2012
The need for its services is as strong as ever, but after years of rising costs and dwindling income from fundraising, the Jane Addams Hull House Association will close and file for bankruptcy, the agency said Thursday.
“For the last several years the agency has had trouble in the fundraising side of things;” said Stephen Saunders, chair of the association’s board of trustees. “After many years of struggling, we have to close our doors. It was a very difficult decision.”
The 123-year-old agency, headquartered at 1030 W. Van Buren St., provides foster care, domestic violence counseling and prevention services, child development programs, and job training to about 60,000 children, families and community groups each year.
Plans are to close by the end of March, Saunders said.
Despite an effort over the last two years to reduce operating costs, an increase in demand for services and a drop in donations led to the financial trouble, he said.
Hull House is working on shifting the services offered by its more than 50 programs to agencies including the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Chicago Housing Authority, Saunders said. Hull House oversees 206 foster children and another 32 adolescents in either transitional or independent living programs, said DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe. The department is working to find other Chicago agencies to take on those cases—an exercise that has become more common as social service agencies across the state close, he said.
“All that needs to change in a transition like this is the agency supervising the case;” he said. “In the vast majority of cases, we are able to maintain the child in their current foster home and quite often with their current caseworker!” Jane Addams was an Illinois born social worker who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum on South Halsted Street is a separate entity not affected by the impending bankruptcy.
Saunders is trying to find a way for the Jane Addams name to carry on through the social service programs that will continue.
“The name Jane Addams is so important to the city of Chicago,” he said. “My hope is one of the agencies would value that name … and apply that name to either a group of programs or a location.”