1906: An auspicious beginning
Neighborhood House was founded in 1906 by the National Council of Jewish Women, Seattle Section, to provide services to Jewish immigrants coming to Seattle from Turkey, Greece and other European countries. Settlement House, as it was then called, was led by Mrs. Bailey Gatzert, whose husband had been both mayor of Seattle and a founder of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. The first services to be offered by Settlement House included a religious school and a sewing class.
1916: A new home
Within a few years, demand for Settlement House's rapidly expanding services, which now included language and citizenship classes, music education and medical treatment, had grown so fast that larger facilities were needed. Thus, on October 29, 1916, Settlement House made the first of many major transitions, moving into new headquarters: a two-story house at 18th Avenue South and South Main Street. The new Settlement House included classrooms, a library, a club room and a ballroom.
According to a 1916 report by The Jewish Voice newspaper, the new building was a "handsome colonial structure of three stories of red brick and white pillars with an imposing marble entrance." It was also, according to the same report, "a monument to women's energy." Amidst all this change and excitement, in 1917, Settlement House was renamed the Educational Center.
1922: The Community Fund
The Educational Center flourished, and in 1922 became a charter member of the Community Fund, forerunner of today's United Way. By 1929, The Educational Center was providing services to nearly 1,400 people per week.
1935: The lean years
The Educational Center couldn't escape the chilling effects of the Depression. By the middle of the 30s, one of its most popular services, the Baby Clinic, was shut down. But the Educational Center continued to provide desperately needed services and a welcome social outlet to families in the area. Many former clients remember attending Boy Scout meetings and dances at the center, which served as the hub of the neighborhood.
1948: A new beginning
By the late 40s, one could no longer describe the agency's wide-ranging menu of services as simply "educational." Thus, on January 1, 1948, the Educational Center became Neighborhood House. The year brought other changes as well. Though the agency had always been a truly multicultural space, its leadership had yet to diversify. Now the agency invited "representatives of non-Jewish groups from the immediate neighborhood and general community" to serve on the Board of Directors. Not long after, the agency passed out of the hands of the Council of Jewish Women.
1956: The modern era
In August of 1956, Neighborhood House stepped out on its own, incorporating as an independent nonprofit agency. Soon after, the new agency entered into an agreement with the Seattle Housing Authority that secured building space for Neighborhood House at SHA's Yesler Terrace housing community. The agreement marked the beginning of a unique relationship: no other housing authority in the country had brought a multi-service agency into a public housing community to serve residents. Neighborhood House would go on to open service centers in public housing communities all over King County.
1960-1970: Time of expansion
With the passage of "Great Society" legislation in the mid-60s, Neighborhood House was able to expand services throughout King County, opening one of the first Head Start preschools in the country. The agency also started its transportation program, providing door-to-door service for low-income people and those with disabilities.
1981: A strong foundation
By the 80s, Neighborhood House was a nationally-recognized leader among service providers. Its Head Start program was flourishing, and the agency was publishing a widely-read newspaper for public housing residents and low-income individuals. The Voice continues to provide timely news in several languages today.
1995: Neighborhood House serves new wave of immigrants
In the 90s, a wave of immigrants from East Africa fleeing war and famine arrive in the United States, additional staff members were hired from various East African language groups to meet the growing refugee population. By the end of 1997, more than half of Neighborhood House's staff spoke a language other than English and the agency was serving more than 7,000 public housing residents each year.
2006: Celebrating 100 years of service
Neighborhood House turned 100 in 2006. The agency's program areas, Family & Social Services, Early Childhood Education, Employment and Adult Education, Youth Education and Community Health are thriving. Our diverse and talented staff allows the agency to be remarkably responsive to community needs. Even today, Neighborhood House stands ready to help yet another generation achieve their hopes and dreams.
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