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About Us

In 1872, a group of well-intentioned, well-off and well-connected Hartford women- who also happened to be determined and competent -decided that something should be done to address the problems confronting poor women and their children on the city's East Side. The bore names such as Brainard, Buckley, Cheney, Colt, Goodwin, Root and others that clearly represented the establishment of the time. (It has been suggested that Mrs. Samuel Clemens also had a significant role in the group's formation, although she never was listed as a member or served on the board.) he founders of the Union for Home Work did not themselves have the time of the inclination to undertake the hands-on work they knew must be involved, so they engaged the wife of Capt. Steven Sluyter, who had just been brought to Hartford from New York state by the Coffe House Committee (on which some of the same women served) to operate a restaurant on market Street where poor people of the area might be able to get inexpensive, nutritious meals. Elizabeth Sluyter's guiding principle, reiterated in virtually every annual report during her 39 years as "Chief Almoner" and Superintendant, was that help should be given in such a way as to avoid fostering dependency. Her objective was always to equip and encourage people to work as that they might earn what they needed and thereby gain the satisfaction and self respect that flowed from that. The Sluyters lived on the same street as the people they sought to aid, anticipating by a few years the settlement house philosophy of having dedicated workers live among the poor and disadvantaged (as we now say) to help them improve themselves and their economic condition.

In 1894 the Hartford Social Settlement was established to provide similar services to the people in another poor, largely immigrant East Side neighborhood. It was funded and directed principally by clergyman, professor and teachers, with little involvement of business people. In name and philosophy it was a product of the Settlement house movement that had started in England in 1884 and spread to New York and Chicago, where Jane Addams of Hull House became perhaps its most famous exponent. In the year following the founding of HSS, the Hartford Theological Seminary took an interest in its work, offering, among other things, help with the rent.

In 1907 a group of women college graduates that two years earlier had formed the College Club undertook as their principal project to operate a settlement house in another neighborhood, along the railroad tracks west of the downtown area. Tis was known as the College Settlement, or more familiar as the Spruce Street Settlement for its first location, then as Mitchell House after it relocated in 1926 when te need for its services on Spruce Street had diminished.

In 1939, the Union for Home Work and the Hartford Social Settlement combined to form the Union Street Settlement. In 1945 the North End Community Center began operation. It had been oficially formedin 1929 by Black clergy, but had remained largely inactive during the intervening years. While its aims were essentially similar to those of the earlier organizations, it was not conceived as a settlement house.

In 1956, the boards of the Union Settlement and the North End Community combined to form a single entity under the name Hartford Neighborhood Centers.

In 1960, Mitchell House, which no longer had an official relationship with the College Club, merged into the Hartford Neighborhood Centers. For four years prior to that formal merger, the two organizations had in fact employed the same executive director and conducted some programs jointly.

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