The first settlement house, Toynbee Hall, was formed in London in 1884. There, students from Oxford and Cambridge lived in the impoverished East End of London to learn about poverty firsthand. Canon Samuel Barnett, an organizer, noted the rationale of the settlement movement: “It is distance that makes friendship between classes almost impossible.”
In America, people were immigrating in large numbers. Progressive leaders focused on “Americanization,” trying to help immigrants adapt. In 1889, Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr founded Hull House in Chicago. Hull House became the model settlement house in America. Hull House offered a variety of services including classes, medical care, and recreational opportunities. Jane Addams elaborated three principles for settlement work: residence, research, and reform. Settlement volunteers worked closely with the neighborhoods they served, researched the causes of poverty and campaigned for legislative reforms to combat them.
Settlement houses were popular. Within a year of Hull House opening, 400 settlement houses were established nationwide.
Preserving the Past
Today, The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association serves the modern immigrant communities of Salem through literacy, citizenship, college preparation, and cultural programming. Because of demographic shifts, the focus of the work has moved away from the Derby Street neighborhood, but the settlement mission remains the same: to provide educational and enrichment opportunities for the local immigrant community.