Hull House (Hull-House Museum)

In the late 1800s, wealthy Americans toured Europe. It was the cosmopolitan thing to do. For many, it was a shopping trip, and today’s museums are filled with their souvenirs. For some, like Potter Palmer, doctors ordered excursions abroad as convalescence. One rather serious young woman from Cedarville, Illinois, whose father had been a Senator and counted Lincoln among his friends, toured the continent twice, but her experiences were a bit different from her contemporaries. While her itineraries included the Vatican and Parisian art galleries and palaces, and she even met Bertha Palmer during one Paris visit, she also saw the underbelly. Her first trip, which lasted nearly two years, introduced her to child beggars in Ireland, the desperate grab of the hungry at the market’s close in East London, and the deplorable working conditions of women in the fields and breweries of Germany. During her second, shorter tour, she visited the first settlement house, Toynbee Hall in England, and returned with a plan to change the world.

Or, at least a scheme, as she called it, to improve the lives of a few. Changing the world came later.

Jane Addams and her college friend Ellen Gates Starr moved into a boardinghouse across the street from Chicago’s Washington Square in early 1889. They were looking for the perfect place to implement Jane’s scheme to “settle” amongst the disadvantaged and downtrodden. They had been so affected by what they’d seen at Toynbee Hall that they wanted to, if not replicate it exactly, create something similar. They wanted to go beyond traditional philanthropy and be actively involved in the daily lives of the people they hoped to help. For these two visionaries, that meant living among them. As they used their connections and gift of persuasion to gather support from the city’s wealthy and civic-minded, they searched for the perfect place to call home.

Learn the full story of Jane Addams’ grand scheme and Hull-House Museum in Living Landmarks of Chicago.

Completed: 1856
Address: 800 S. Halsted St.

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Sources for Hull-House Museum

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