U of I Trustees/Hull House Museum
The Hull House Neighborhood
Vince Romano 312-218-4044
If we do not act now, the following will be our epitaph:
“…and it came to pass that, for those who follow us, it will be as if we never were.”
January 20, 2011
Presentation to the U of I Trustees, Chicago Campus
Vince Romano, Editor: TaylorStreetArchives.com
The Hull House Museum, under the guardianship of the UIC, is the primary outlet for the dissemination of information to the public. Consistent with the code of the International Community of Museums and, as noted in the Mission Statement of the Hull House Museum ,the Museum, in preserving the legacy of the Jane Addams Hull House, “serves as a dynamic memorial to Jane Addams, the work of her associates, and the neighborhood they served.”
Fact: The very first invitation sent to the residents of the near-west side neighborhood slums, which Jane Addams had labeled “The Hull House Neighborhood” was written in Italian. It begins with, “Mio Carissimo Amico,” and is signed, “Le signore Jane Addams and Ellen Starr.” (Chicago Tribune, May 19, 1890)
Fact: The Bethlehem-Howell Neighborhood Center and Jane Addams’ book “The First 20 Years of Hull House” further document that: “Italians occupied the area from the river on the east on out to the western end. Germans and Jews resided south of that inner core (south of Roosevelt Rd.)…The Greek delta formed by Harrison, Halsted and Blue Island served as a buffer to the Irish residing to the north and the Canadian –French to the northwest.”
Fact: Of the 3 dominant immigrant groups, Jews and Greeks began their exodus from the neighborhood during the early part of the 20th century. Only the business sections of GreekTown and Maxwell Street remained. The Italian enclave was the only ethnic group that endured as a vibrant community beyond the prohibition era, the Great Depression, WWII, and the physical destruction of the neighborhood, which culminated with the creation of the UIC in 1963.
Fact: The “Hull House Kids,” a historic picture taken by Wallace Kirkland, Hull House Director, in 1924, circulated the globe as a poster child for the Jane Addams’ Hull House. All twenty boys were first generation Italian Americans. (See attached.) “All with vowels at the ends of their names, they grew up to be lawyers and mechanics, sewer workers and dump truck drivers, a candy shop owner, a boxer and a mob boss.” Michael Corndt, Chicago Sun-Times 1987.
Fact: From the list of the 257 Bowen Country Club (BCC) alumni serving in WWII, all were Italians except for a handful of non-Italian names. Once again suggesting that, during the greater part its 74 year history on the near-west side (1889-1963), the original Hull House and its summer camp served a community that was almost entirely Italian Americans…a community that came to be known as the Legendary Taylor Street’s Little Italy.
Lisa Lee, Director of the HullHouseMuseum is recently quoted as saying: “We do not have a narrow vision of ownership over history or who gets to tell the story, but realize it is a collective story to be told. History should include the story of those who lived it.” UIC College of Architecture, Spring 2007.
Despite the Museum’s self-professed philosophy, when asked why the Taylor Street Archives is not included in its multitude of references in their bibliographies and links to their websites, the rationale given for public consumption was, “After all, in addition to the Italian community, Hull House also served 24 other ethnic neighborhoods.” Medill School of Journalism, December 3, 2008. (Aside: It was only with the dismantling of the neighborhood that the Hull House Association, beginning as a shell organization operating out of store fronts throughout the city, came to the forefront in dispensing social services beyond the original Hull house Neighborhood.)
In addition to the Hull House rolls, every writer, every historian of the Italian American experience confirms that, for most, if not all of the history of the Jane Addams’ Hull House, Italian Americans were the primary component of the Hull House Neighborhood. The history of the Jane Addams’ Hull House is not complete without acknowledging the symbiotic relationship that existed with the Legendary Taylor Street’s Little Italy. The Neighborhood, with its original enclave of 10,000 Italian-American immigrants (1895 census), became the laboratory upon which the Hull House elitists tested their theories and based their protests to the establishment.
If the UIC Board concurs that the residents of Taylor Street’s Little Italy were the dominant constituents and beneficiaries of the Hull House phenomenon, we ask the Board to consider the following to improve upon the original Museum’s mandate:
- Concurring with the HH Director that “History should include the stories of those who lived it,” we request that the Museum pursue, for the benefit of scholars, historians and the public, the implementation of that philosophy. The Taylor Street Archives fits that definition and others may as well.
- In keeping with tradition, it is also suggested that at least one representative of the community should be appointed to serve on the Museum’s Board. That individual, preferably, should be someone who knowledgeably represents those who lived the experience of growing up in Taylor Street’s Little Italy, the inner core of the Hull House Neighborhood,