Hull House, Chicago Commons, and The Northwestern and University of Chicago Settlements were three of six settlements built by the Pond brothers, Irving and Allen. Hull House is the most famous but they all tell a story. Another architect Perkins contributed to several settlements including the University of Chicago settlement.

The Ponds and Perkins were in accord with each other, and with the philosophy of the settlement movement. Their aim was to create a physical context that fostered connection between people and exposed them to means of achieving a higher life, feeling included in society and developing a sense of citizenship and a commitment to the common good.

Although the thinking behind the architecture was progressive, the buildings aped a “Domestic English’ style. Jane Addam’s visit to England, to Toynbee Hall and People’s Palace may have been an influence, on Hull House’s university quadrangular layout for example. There are clusters of rooms with various functions, a drawing room used for social gatherings, tripartite windows, cupolas, and pedimented doorways and dormers. There were also features that reflected America’s colonial past signifying the new country’s cultural and political values.

Hull House took almost two decades to build, starting in 1881. It was open from the beginning, with rooms and functions progressively added. It started with an art gallery, followed by a coffee house, gymnasium, a music studio. A third floor and a children’s house were built in 1895. Housing for working girls was available in 1899. Shops and textile museum in 1901. A nursery was the last addition.

Architecture of a settlement house demands a relationship with the community. The spaces had to be open, public, and democratic. Unlike Toynbee Hall, for example, the Hull House quadrangle opened to the surrounding streets to encourage access. Success brought its challenges. By 1908 Hull House had stretched an entire block, a proportion claims Szuberla author that separates building from community.

Most settlements still in existence today operate from their original houses. Would a 21st Century Settlement be built differently?

Read the paper here.

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