Hull House closes, legacy continues

By Kaley Fowler

Since 1962, the Jane Addams Hull House Association, 1030 W. Van Buren St., has served Chicago as a major social service provider, carrying on the legacy of Jane Addams, an early pioneer of social work. However, because of the city’s economic struggles, one of its most influential landmarks has come to an end.

The organization served approximately 60,000 Chicagoans annually through more than 50 social service programs. On Jan. 19, it announced its plans to file for bankruptcy and shut its doors this spring. However, the association announced just days later that it would instead file for bankruptcy Jan. 27 and close immediately.

“During these challenging times, we have remained committed to the mission established by Jane Addams more than 120 years ago,” said Board Chairman Stephen Saunders in a written statement. “Now our goal is to ensure the families and individuals we serve continue to have access to the services they need. This was a very difficult decision, but it was the responsible thing to do.”

According to a press release, Hull House management and the Board of Trustees have spent the last two years working to reduce operating costs in order to remain financially stable but could not overcome the current economic climate.

Hull House is in the process of identifying other service agencies in the Chicago area that will take over and maintain its services and programs in fields such as child welfare, domestic violence, family services and community building.

“While there are other agencies capable of stepping up and taking on the work that [Hull House] does, Jane Addams was part of the foundation of American social work,” said Kendall Marlowe, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. “We’ve lost a link to the very beginnings of social work.”

According to Marlowe, Hull House has recently been handling foster care programs and transitional and independent living programs for the DCFS. Hull House was responsible for 206 foster care cases, 16 youths in a transitional living program and 16 youths in an independent living program, all of whom will be moved to new agencies with the help of the department.

“Our community has really lost a valuable resource that keeps our children thriving,” said Brenda Alford, technical specialist for Hull House Youth Services. “Until something else is put into place for [the children], they have to wait for something new, and that’s sad.”

As the association works to relocate its now displaced patrons, Hull House is also seeking to help its staff find new employment opportunities.

“The people at Hull House are some of the most respected service providers in Chicago,” Saunders said in a written statement. “Their loyalty and dedication have been the most valuable assets of Jane Addams Hull House, and we are making every effort to put them in touch with other agencies that can utilize their knowledge and skills.”

The original Hull House stemmed from Addams’ desire to create a safe haven to provide educational and social benefits for the working class. Her idea solidified in 1889 when she and Ellen Gates Starr, a fellow philanthropist, founded Hull House. Addams ran Hull House, 800 S. Halsted St., until her death in 1935.

After being designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1965 and a Chicago landmark in 1974, Hull House now operates as part of the College of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The house transformed into the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in 1967. The museum, not affiliated with the association, is open to the public and contains more than 1,100 artifacts related to Hull House’s extensive history.