Seattle's Neighborhood House (Settlement House)

  • By Lee Micklin
  • Posted 11/02/1998
  • Essay 113
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The Seattle Section of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) founded Settlement House in 1906. (Settlement House was renamed Neighborhood House in 1947). They founded it on the model established by Toynbee Hall in London (1884) and on Jane Addams' Hull House in Chicago (1889). Settlement houses were part of a social reform movement to address problems resulting from industrialization, immigration, and crowded tenements. Seattle's Settlement House was a neighborhood center for Jewish immigrants that provided hundreds of new arrivals with medical and employment assistance, legal services, social orientation, and education. A key leader was Babette (Schwabacher) Gatzert.

In 1906 the Seattle Council of Jewish Women's Committee on Philanthropy rented the lower part of a home on 12th Avenue and Washington Street. One of the earliest programs was a sewing school for 30 girls. To meet new immigrants' hunger for knowledge, Seattle Public Library was petitioned to establish a reading room. Free public baths were offered to the community to solve the problem that many immigrants had only cold water in the buildings where they lived.

On August 6, 1916, The Seattle Times ran a headline announcing, "Building Ready for Occupancy Next Month." It went on to say that the building "will contain 8 classrooms, social and club rooms, library, clinics and other equipment. The story referred to Settlement House's move and name change to The Education Center.

The Education Center moved to the corner of 18th Avenue and Main Street, and employed a paid resident worker. The sewing class of 30 young women in 1906 had grown to a class of 142. The evening school for newcomers to learn English met twice a week. Through the settlement house, hundreds of new immigrants received medical and employment assistance, legal services, social orientation, and education.

In 1921, the Educational Center became one of the first agencies in the newly formed Chamber of Commerce's Community Chest (now United Way). In 1947 the name was changed again to Neighborhood House, as it is known today. It had always been a multicultural space, but the leadership had remained Jewish. In 1948 the leadership invited non-Jews to become members of the board of directors.

In 2004 Neighborhood House continues its mission "to help diverse communities of people with limited resources attain their goals for self-sufficiency, financial independence, and community building" (Neighborhood House Website).

Neighborhood House publishes The Voice Newspaper, which "gives voice to low-income individuals." Its programs include family and social services, child development programs in four public housing communities, transportation of elderly and disabled people, and working with immigrant populations on education and employment. Neighborhood House employs 150 people who represent 30 different languages and cultures. The executive director is Mark Okazaki.


Meta Buttnick, "Marking the 95th Anniversary of Seattle Section, National Council of Jewish Women," Nizcor: Washington State Jewish Historical Society Newsletter, Winter 1995; Jean Porter Devine, From Settlement House to Neighborhood House: 1906-1976 (Seattle: Neighborhood House, Inc., 1976); The Jewish Transcript staff, The Guide to Jewish Washington (Seattle: The Jewish Transcript, 1998; Seattle Section, National Council of Jewish Women, "Time Line" (in possession of Seattle Section, NCJW); Neighborhood House Website accessed August 11, 2004 (
Note: This essay was updated on August 11, 2004.

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