Hull-House, Chicago's first social settlement was not only the private
home of Jane Addams and other Hull-House residents, but also a place where
immigrants of diverse communities gathered to learn, to eat, to debate,
and to acquire the tools necessary to put down roots in their new country.
The Museum is comprised of two of the settlement complex's original
thirteen buildings, the Hull-Home and the Residents' Dining Hall. These
spaces were used variously over the years, including as a nursery school,
a library, and a salon for social and political dialogue.
When Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr first opened Hull-House in 1889,
they had very modest goals. They imagined a place to offer art and
literary education to their less fortunate neighbors. The role of
Hull-House, however, quickly grew beyond what either Gates or Addams could
have imagined and continuously evolved to meet the needs of their
neighbors. The residents of Hull-House, at the request of the surrounding
community, began to offer practical classes that might help the new
immigrants become more integrated into American society, such as English
language, cooking, sewing and technical skills, and American government.
The residents were the women and men who chose to live at Hull-House;
they paid rent and contributed to the activities and services that the
Settlement was committed to providing to their neighbors. These services
included, but were not limited to, a nursery and a kindergarten, a public
kitchen, and access to public baths and a playground. Hull-House became
not only a cultural center with music, art, and theater offerings, but
also a safe haven and a place where the immigrants living on Chicago's
Near West Side could find companionship and support and the assistance
they needed for coping with the modern city.