Ethnic Cleansing 101: UIC’s Hull House Museum

Ethnic Cleansing 101: The Historic Lobotomy on Display at the Jane Addams’ Hull House Museum.


The ethnic cleansing allegedly being practiced by the director of the Hull House Museum, and formally brought to the attention of the University of Illinois’s Board of Trustees in early 2011, was called to task during the February 12, 2012 panel discussion: Historic Preservation and the People’s History. The panel discussion was sponsored by the National Public Housing Museum and held at the Hull House Museum. The workshop, attended by students, faculty, historians, scholars and community members was shown was shown on Can TV on Sunday, March 4, 2012, 10:30am.

The ethnic cleansing policies of the Hull House Museum’s director, Lisa Lee, as it concerns the Legendary Taylor Street and the Hull House neighborhood, were refuted by this nationally recognized panel of experts on historic preservation during a heated debate.

The audience, consisting of historians, researchers, educators, students, and representatives of the Taylor Street community, were equally vocal in support of the panelists’ condemnation of the Museum Director’s policies. The director held firm to her contention and the Museum’s position that the European immigrant groups that occupied the near-west side slums had little if any legitimacy in the history and legacy of the Jane Addams’ Hull House: “After all, Hull House served twenty-four ethnic neighborhoods.”

The director remained in denial despite the documented reality that the immigrant community, consisting primarily of southern Europeans (Italians and Greeks) and eastern European Jews, served as the laboratory for the Jane Addams’ Hull House social theories and the basis for their protests to the establishment. (The Italian American component of the Hull House Neighborhood is the only ethnic group—immigrant or migrant– that endured through WWI, prohibition, the great depression, WWII and the eventual destruction of the community by UIC in 1963.)

The panel remained steadfast in their definition of historic preservation:– concurring with the community’s long held position that the preservation of the stories of the people who lived the experience of growing up in the Hull House neighborhood was as equally important, if not more so, than the preservation of the buildings that housed their activities.


Taylor Street’s contingent won the day when the renowned group of panelists dismissed the arguments that one must be a vetted historian to include their stories in the Museum’s website. One panel member suggested “job security” as a remedy to the resistance to include “the people’s history” in their historic preservation.


Further discrediting and refuting the position of the UIC’s Hull House Museum was the quote attributed to the sponsor of the event, the National Public Housing Museum: “We are more than objects. We are more than artifacts. Our legacy is the sum of our stories.”

The panel of experts supported the community residents who were challenging the director’s right to arbitrarily and capriciously direct the Museum to dispense, by both omission and commission, flawed history concerning the Jane Addams’ Hull House and the residents of “Hull House Neighborhood.”

The hotly contested discourse between and among the various entities ended when the Director was asked to respond why she had boycotted a meeting with the community representatives to discuss the recommendation of the UIC’s Board of Trustees that the Hull House Museum’s website contain a link titled: Stories from the Hull House Neighborhood. That meeting was scheduled at the insistence of the President of the UIC’s Board of Trustees, Christopher Kennedy, and the UIC Chancellor, Paula Meare. The director, Lisa Lee, abruptly left the premises without a response. ..\..\TSA STORIES\UIC PKT\B-2-23-11-B meeting notes-2.doc

Further adding to the hypocrisy of that day, almost two year later, on February 20, 2014, in a blatant display of manipulative journalism, the Hull House Museum posted, on their website, a book of essays inspired by the Historic Preservation and the People’s History workshop of February 2012. The preface to that book of essays authored by Lisa Lee, the then director of the JAHHM, included the following misleading statement: “The February 2012 conference successfully addressed and resolved such questions as: How do we prevent historic amnesia? Such a statement from someone who actively and openly practices “historic lobotomy,” would be akin to Hitler saying, “We have successfully addressed and resolved the Czechoslovakian, Polish and Jewish questions.”


For the record, following are the hi-lights surrounding the presentation made to the UIC’s thirty-four member Board of Trustees and their president, Christopher Kennedy, in February 2011, to refute the director’s claim that the immigrant community, which included the Italians, was not part of the Jane Addams and the Hull House legacy: “After all, Hull House served 24 ethnic neighborhoods.” The following presentation to the UICBOT was made just one year before the historic preservation panel moderated by Lisa lee.

  • Hull House was founded in 1889. The very first invitation (1890) sent to the residents of the Hull House Neighborhood was written in Italian. “Mio Carissimo Amicoand was signed, “Le signore Jane Addams and Ellen Starr.” (Chicago Tribune, May 19, 1890) The Bethlehem-Howell Neighborhood Center further substantiates that, as early as the 1890s, “the inner core of “The Hull House Neighborhood” was occupied by Italians. Germans and Jews resided south of that inner core (south of twelfth street)…The Greek delta formed by Harrison, Halsted and Blue Island Streets served as a buffer to the Irish residing to the north and the Canadian –French to the northwest.” Jane Addams, in The First 20 Years of Hull House, in confirming the demographics of the immigrant population noted above, stated that Italians occupied the area from the river on the east on out to the western end of the Hull House neighborhood… from Harrison Street on the north to Roosevelt Road on the south.
  • The “Hull House Neighborhood,” which included its enclave of 10,000 Italian-American immigrants (1895 census), became the laboratory upon which the elite group of Hull House sociologists tested their social theories. Their protests to the establishment were based upon the living conditions of the near-west side slum’s immigrant population. Of the three (3) dominant immigrant groups, Jews and Greeks began their exodus of the neighborhood during the first part of the 20th century. The Italians were the only immigrant ethnic group that remained as a vibrant community through WWI, the roaring twenties, the prohibition era, the Great Depression, WWII, and beyond the physical destruction of the neighborhood by the UIC in 1963. Only the business sections of Greek Town and Jew Town (Maxwell Street) endured.
  • “The Hull House Kids,” a historic photograph taken by Wallace K. Kirkland Sr., Hull House Director, on a summer day in 1924, circulated the globe as a poster child, of sorts, for the Jane Addams’ Hull House. All twenty boys, posing in the Dante school yard on Forquer Street (now Arthington Street), were offspring of immigrant Italian parents. 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 Cordts, Chicago Sun-Times, 1987) Aside: This photograph had been removed from the recently renovated HH Museum.
  • During the greater part of its 74 year history on the near-west side (1889-1963), Hull House and its summer camp, the Bowen Country Club (BCC), served primarily an immigrant community. The Hull House and BCC records substantiate as much: — From the list of the 257 Bowen Country Club (BCC) alumni serving in WWII, virtually all were offspring of immigrant parents. Given that Jews and Greeks had moved out of the immigrant neighborhood prior to WWII, most of those alumni serving in WWII were of Italian heritage. One must conclude that the history of Jane Addams (sociologist) and Hull House is not complete without acknowledging the symbiotic relationship that existed with the Legendary Taylor Street’s Little Italy.
  • The Hull House Museum, under the guardianship of the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), is the primary outlet for the dissemination of information to scholars and the public, alike. Consistent with the code of the International Community of Museums and, as noted in the Mission Statement of the Hull House Museum itself:– the Museum, in preserving the legacy of the Jane Addams Hull House, is directed to “serve as a dynamic memorial to Jane Addams, the work of her associates and the neighborhood they served.”
  • Lisa Lee, the director of the Hull House Museum, is quoted, in the Spring 2007 UIC College of Architecture journal, as follows: “It is important that 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.” Despite this self-professed philosophy and the mission statement that binds her, the Director of the Hull House Museum, confident in her immunity to fraud charges by those who apply for and receive NEH grants, remains firm in her conviction that the stories of those who lived the history of growing up on Taylor Street, the inner core of the Hull House Neighborhood, are not worthy of inclusion in the Museum’s massive bibliographies and links to their website.
  • More recently, when questioned why the Museum rejected renewed attempts to include the stories written by Neighborhood writers who contributed to the Taylor Street Archives website, the Museum’s director adamantly responded, for the consumption of historians, scholars and the public alike that, after all, Hull House also served 24 other ethnic neighborhoods.” Medill School of Journalism, Dec. 3, 2008. The Museum’s director appears to be oblivious of the fact that it was only with the dismantling of the neighborhood, which culminated with the physical demise of Hull House in 1963, 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 CONCLUSION: The Hull House Museum, the primary outlet for the dissemination of information to scholars, etc., about the history of the Jane Addams’ Hull House and the neighborhood it served is dispensing, by both omission and commission, flawed history.

We must ensure that our place in the history and legacy of the Jane Addams’ Hull House, as the laboratory upon which the sociologists that defined Hull House tested their theories and based their protests to the establishment, is neither usurped nor redefined by a power structure that chooses to ignore the place of the immigrant population in that phenomenon known as the Jane Addams’ Hull House. We contest their right to arbitrarily and capriciously remove us from that legacy.

Later, in the summer of 2013, a series of forums was held to select the new director of the Hull House Museum from a group of 3 finalists. Community representatives attended each of the three forums. They, the community representatives, overcame the attempt by the Director and her staff to censure their input. Each candidate was asked: “Given that the mission statement of the Hull House Museum includes their preserving the history and legacy of the community it served:–Would you, as Director, encouraged the Museum to include the stories of the residents of the neighborhood it served.” All three finalists concurred that the history and legacy of the Jane Addams Hull House should include the stories of those who lived it. None of the three finalists were hired as Director of the Museum. The ethnic cleansing policy of the Hull House neighborhood remains in place, as the Museum continues to dispense, by both commission and omission –to scholars, historians, students, and the public alike– flawed history.

“We are more than objects. We are more than artifacts. Our legacy is the sum of our stories!” Taylor Street Archives.


Epilogue: Ethnic Cleansing 102 (to read more use search engine)

Ethnic Cleansing 102 or click on website:



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