Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Since 1915, the Northeast Neighborhood House Has Welcomed New Immigrants to Minneapolis

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Since 1915, the Northeast Neighborhood House Has Welcomed New Immigrants to Minneapolis

Article excerpt

Constructed in Minneapolis in 1919, the Northeast Neighborhood House (NENH) served both as a portal into American society for newly arrived immigrants from Eastern Europe and as an advocate for the neighborhood's underprivileged. It is a notable example of a social institution created solely for the betterment of the disadvantaged.

The beginnings of the NENH were rooted in Plymouth Church. The services offered at the church and at its Sunday school program were widely used by neighborhood citizens. It eventually became apparent to church management that they required a larger facility. In the late 1890s the church replaced its original mission building with a more spacious structure called Drummond Hall.

By 1910 the demographics of the Northeast neighborhood were changing. Catholic newcomers from Eastern Europe were arriving. The Protestant ministrations of Drummond Hall kept them away. The hall closed in 1913 due to dwindling attendance. The directors of Plymouth Church then determined that the Northeast neighborhood was still in need of a large social facility to acquaint immigrants with American culture. Neighborhood unity was their main goal. In 1915 Drummond Hall was reopened as the NENH. Its goal was to provide nonsectarian services to unite the community, which was divided by nationality and religion.

Robbins Gilman, former head of New York's University settlement, was chosen to run the NENH. Gilman was aided by his wife, Catheryne, who was also a reformer. She influenced some of the NENH's programs but was more active in other organizations. When the NENH began operations on January 20, 1915, it was one of four settlement houses in the city. It offered classes in sewing, cooking, carpentry, and dancing. It also provided a supervised setting for the children of the neighborhood to socialize.

Robbins Gilman hired one supervisor for boys and one for girls. This allowed him to focus on his grander ideas for the facility. A program to help women find work in conjunction with a day nursery was created. …

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