Settlement houses: a history
In 1886, Stanton Coit founded America's first settlement house, the Neighborhood Guild—later renamed University Settlement—on New York City's Lower East Side.
Over the next decade, other civic leaders, including Lillian Wald, John Lovejoy Elliott, and Mary Simkhovitch, established settlement houses in the city, influenced by the English idea that people of means should “settle” in poverty-stricken neighborhoods to improve living conditions and work for social reform.
These early settlements taught adult education and English language classes, provided schooling for immigrants' children, organized job clubs, offered after-school recreation, initiated public health services, and advocated for improved housing for the poor and working classes.
Until the mid-1900s, settlement house staff lived in the same buildings in which neighborhood residents participated in programs and activities. Thus, they came to regard those who made use of settlement houses as "neighbors," not "clients."
Even today, many of New York’s settlement house staff members live in the same neighborhoods as the community members they serve.
That shared sense of community still exists between settlement staff and the people who participate in settlement programs—and will propel the next 100 years of UNH’s mission.