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For more than a century, Association House of Chicago has played a significant and historic role in Chicago’s westside neighborhoods. Founded as a settlement house by Ellen Holt, a student of Jane Addams, Association House served as a landing place for new immigrants for decades. Today, Association House continues to serve thousands of families each year, through programs that promote health and wellness, advance education, and provide economic opportunity.


Browse photos from our archives and explore the timeline below to learn about our 125-year-long history.

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Association House was established as a community center, eager to meet the challenges of a diverse and growing immigrant neighborhood.

Association House began to serve women and girls working in nearby factories.


Daily attendance topped 1,000, and that summer more than 4,500 showers were taken at Association House. To respond to the growing need, founders laid the cornerstone of the new and expanded Association House building at 2150 West North Avenue.

1899 to 1945
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The reading room and library opened in the new building, and within two weeks 500 children had borrowed books.


Early participants included many Scandinavians, Germans, Poles, and later, Russian Jews, reflecting changes in the 1910 census. Leadership welcomed the diversity and provided a place that celebrated all cultures and religions.


With a generous estate gift from fellow founding organizer Susan Poxon, Association House opened Druce Lake Camp to provide a summer escape from the city for young girls and boys.

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Leadership facilitated financial security through a new partnership with the Church Extension Board of the Presbytery of Chicago. This partnership continued into the 1980s.


The Women’s Auxiliary held its first meeting and advocated for support from Presbyterian churches and businesses.


During the depression, funds were scarce but programs continued, including dental and nutrition services, manual training, and art and music classes.

1946 to 1996


Alfred Rath became Executive Director in 1946 and served until 1963. He initiated programs for the persons with developmental disabilities and youth, both hallmarks of our services today.


Ever multi-cultural, participants now represented 29 different nationalities. By 1950, Latinos would represent a significant new population.


A pilot program providing education for children with developmental disabilities began. The program grew rapidly and catalyzed the formation of 17 other parent groups in Illinois and 350 groups across the country, ultimately helping to deinstitutionalize countless children.

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Caravanas de Verano, a summer outreach program that brought sports and recreation to youth in their own neighborhoods began. This program laid the groundwork for future expansion of teen programs.


AHC began services in Child Welfare with a foster care program that started in 1976. 


Our first program funded by the state in Behavioral Health was the Family Center (now PSR) in 1977. PSR is a rehabilitative skill-building service for adults with serious mental illness or co-occurring psychiatric disorders and addictions.