Chicago’s Historic Hull House Shuttered; Helped Many Greek Immigrants

The historic Jane Addams Hull House Association has closed after more than 122 years of service. Citing tough economic times, the social service agency shuttered on Friday after previously announcing a March closing date. They’ve filed bankruptcy.

Founded in 1889, Hull House was created through the vision of Jane Addams, who is remembered as a teacher, settlement worker, philosopher, sociologist, and leader in women’s suffrage and world peace.  Hull House was the first—and most well-known—settlement house in the US, and was founded to help families and new immigrants. It eventually became a 13-building complex, with a playground and a summer camp.

Jane Addams Hull House circa 1920

When Jane Addams purchased the old Hull House mansion, located at 800 S. Halsted, Greeks from the adjacent Delta, as well as area German, Italian and Jewish immigrants, flocked there. Many found living accommodations; some worked there or received job assistance. There, immigrants were schooled in English, learned to transact with American money and more, essentially, they assisted them to adapt to their new lives in the United States.

Hull House became a cultural center in its own right, as home to ethnic clubs, a place to stage plays, host dances and meetings, even be recruited and trained to take up arms for Greece in the Balkan Wars. For these immigrants, Hull House was more than a social service agency—it was a place they could gather to celebrate their roots, and keep them alive in their new country.

Many clubs, such as the Greek Men’s Wrestling Club and the Greek Mother’s Club, were based there. In 1909, the first Ladies Philoptochos Chapter in Chicago—the second in the nation—was headquartered there. Many will remember stories of their grandmothers or great-grandmothers working for the Red Cross. These activities stemmed from Hull House efforts.

For all her work, Jane Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize—the first American woman.

In the 1960s, when the area was demolished to build the University of Illinois at Chicago, the service agency relocated. As part of the university, the old mansion was preserved as the Jane Addams Hull House Museum, which houses exhibitions and displays the history of Hull House and Addams, with a section on the Greeks of the area. A separate entity, it remains open, and to the public.

 


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