Hull House


Hull House, founded in 1889 by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr, was a Settlement House in Chicago’s Near West Side. It assisted the ethnically diverse working-class community through various social services and educational programs. Over time, Hull House expanded to a larger campus, becoming a hub for social reform, and shaping theories about poverty in the Progressive Era.

Hull House, Exterior, 1906

Hull House in 1906. Image Source: Hull House Year Book, 1906-1907.

Essential Facts

  • Hull House was founded in 1889 by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr.
  • It is located on Chicago’s Near West Side.
  • Initially a single mansion, Hull House expanded to 13 buildings.
  • It provided nurseries, kindergartens, soup kitchens, clubs, and classes.
  • Influential people involved with Hull House included Julia Lathrop, Florence Kelley, and Alice Hamilton.
  • Hull House was supported by wealthy benefactors and volunteers.
  • It became a center for social reform and the Progressive Era.

Significance to American History

Hull House is important to American History for the role it played in the Social Reform Movement of the Progressive Era. It helped demonstrate the importance of addressing systemic issues that contributed to poverty and providing essential social services to its diverse clientele. Hull House also served as a model for future social work practices and influenced national policies through its research and advocacy efforts.

Brief History

The Founding of Hull House

In 1889, two young women with college educations, Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr, rented a rundown mansion on the Near West Side of Chicago. This mansion, originally built in 1856 by real estate developer Charles J. Hull, once stood in the middle of open fields. 

Jane Addams, 1906, Portrait, NPG
Jane Addams. Image Source: National Portrait Gallery.

By the time Addams and Starr took over, Hull House was surrounded by factories and slums. These slums were crowded around an open market on South Halstead Street. The neighborhood was home to a diverse immigrant population, including Irish, Germans, Greeks, Italians, Eastern European Jews, and African Americans. 

Addams and Starr decided to live among these people to understand how they could offer practical assistance. Over time, their efforts to help their neighbors evolved into what is now known as Social Work. The old mansion where they carried out their activities became known as Hull House.

Growth and Influence of Hull House

Friends of Addams and Starr learned about Hull House and joined the women in their initiatives. Among these friends were women who would later become nationally recognized for their contributions to social reform, such as:

  • Julia Lathrop, the first head of the U.S. Children’s Bureau.
  • Florence Kelley, who became the head of the National Consumers League.
  • Alice Hamilton, the founder of industrial medicine.

Others applied to live at Hull House. Some offered to cover their living expenses, with some receiving fellowships from wealthy benefactors. Volunteers were allowed to stay at Hull House for six weeks to six months, depending on the services they could offer. During the first three years of Hull House, all the residents were women, but men also participated as nonresident volunteers. 

The programs offered at Hull House included nurseries, kindergartens, soup kitchens, clubs for people of all ages, and classes in art, crafts, drama, cooking, and the English language.

Hull House and the Birth of Progressive Reform

Impressed by the practical approach to social welfare at Hull House, some wealthy benefactors started to support its programs. Intellectuals, reformers, and political figures would visit Hull House. During these visits, they would engage with residents and neighbors to share ideas and learn from their experiences. Because of this, Hull House became a place for discussing and addressing modern urban issues plaguing the growing United States during the Progressive Era.

Hull House Maps and Papers

One of the early accomplishments was the 1895 publication of Hull-House Maps and Papers: A Presentation of Nationalities and Wages in a Congested District of Chicago. This publication was the first systematic investigation of a working-class neighborhood in an American city and was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The book argued that poverty was not the result of individual laziness or failure to save money but of circumstances beyond a person’s control. This argument became one of the cornerstones of Progressive Era social reforms.

Expansion of Hull House

Jane Addams and her colleagues expanded Hull House into a campus by purchasing or constructing additional buildings. 

  • Within two years after Hull House was founded, they built Butler Gallery, a two-story building that served as a supplementary living room, lecture room, and library. It also provided rooms for male residents.
  • In 1895, they constructed a Children’s House, which provided space for clubs to meet, a nursery, a kindergarten, and music classes. 
  • A brick building known as the Jane Club provided housing for working women. 

Over time, the Hull House campus grew to include 13 buildings, each dedicated to different aspects of the settlement’s social programs. 

National Historic Landmark

The original Hull mansion and the settlement’s dining hall have since been designated Registered National Historic Landmarks.


  • 1889 — Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr founded Hull House in Chicago.
  • 1890 — Butler Gallery was built, providing additional communal spaces.
  • 1895 — Children’s House was constructed, offering educational programs for children.
  • 1895 — Hull-House Maps and Papers” was published, highlighting working-class conditions.
  • Early 1900s — Hull House expanded to encompass 13 buildings.
  • 1931 — Jane Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her social reform efforts (not mentioned in the text but relevant to Hull House’s history).
  • 1963 — The original Hull mansion and dining hall were designated Registered National Historic Landmarks.



Hull House was a Settlement House founded in 1889 by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr in Chicago. It served as a community center for immigrants and the urban poor, providing educational, recreational, and social services. Hull House became a model for the Settlement House Movement, promoting social reform and advocating for labor rights, public health, and education.


Hull House is part of the following in the APUSH curriculum:


These terms and definitions are relevant to the history of Hull House, one of the prominent Settlement Houses of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.


  • Jane Addams — Co-founder of Hull House and a pioneer in the field of Social Work.
  • Alice Hamilton — Founder of the field of industrial medicine and an early participant in Hull House.
  • Charles J. Hull — A real estate developer who built the mansion that later became Hull House.
  • Florence Kelley — Head of the National Consumers’ League and a prominent social reformer associated with Hull House.
  • Julia Lathrop — First head of the U.S. Children’s Bureau and an early participant in Hull House.
  • Ellen Gates Starr — Co-founder of Hull House, along with Jane Addams.


  • Branch Library — A secondary or subsidiary library serving a specific area or community.
  • Butler Gallery — A two-story building built by Hull House providing various communal and residential spaces.
  • Children’s House — A building within Hull House dedicated to clubs, nursery, kindergarten, and music classes for children.
  • Jane Club — A building within Hull House providing housing for working women.
  • Lecture Room — A room designed for giving educational lectures or presentations.
  • National Historic Landmarks — Buildings, sites, structures, or objects recognized by the United States government for their historical significance.
  • Near West Side — The area in Chicago where Hull House was located.
  • Slums — Overcrowded urban areas inhabited by poor people.


  • Progressive Era — A period of widespread social activism and political reform in the United States from the 1890s to the 1920s.
  • Settlement House Movement — A movement during the Progressive Era that was driven by groups of young people who wanted to provide services to poor urban communities.


  • National Consumers League — An organization focused on consumer protection and workers’ rights, led by Florence Kelley.
  • U.S. Children’s Bureau — A federal agency established to improve the welfare of children, first headed by Julia Lathrop.
  • U.S. Department of Labor — A federal agency that commissioned the Hull-House Maps and Papers to investigate working-class conditions.


  • Benefactor — A person who gives money or other help to a person or cause, in this context, wealthy individuals supporting Hull House.
  • Commissioned — Ordered or authorized, as in the U.S. Department of Labor commissioning the Hull-House Maps and Papers.
  • Fellowship — Financial support provided to individuals, often for education or research, in this context supplied by wealthy benefactors.
  • Intellectual — A person possessing a highly developed intellect, many of whom visited Hull House.
  • Nonresident — Individuals who volunteered at Hull House without living there.
  • Nursery — A place where young children are cared for during the day.
  • Reformers — Individuals advocating for social changes, many of whom were involved with Hull House.
  • Social Welfare — Programs designed to help individuals and communities in need.
  • Social Work — A profession dedicated to helping individuals, families, and communities to enhance their well-being.
  • Volunteer — A person who offers services freely without pay, contributing to the programs at Hull House.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Hull House
  • Date 1889–1960s
  • Author
  • Keywords Hull House, Who founded Hull House, What was Hull House, When was Hull House in operation, Where is Hull House located, Why did Jane Addams start Hull House, How did Hull House impact social reform
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 22, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 2, 2024