Statement on Tenement Housing in Chicago, May 1, 1901




Recognizes Some Provision Must Be Made for Those Required to Live Near Center of the City, but Insists Modern Buildings Should Be Erected Under Proper Supervision—Demands Air and Higher Degree of Comfort for the Tenants.

An invasion of tenement houses has turned toward Chicago. If the city is not to become a reflection of New York, with its brick-walled, airless, cheerless, hedged–in areas, some recognition must be given to this fact, according to Miss Jane Addams of Hull House. In this she is supported by members of the City Homes association.

No exceptions are taken to Commander Booth-Tucker's warnings against the tenement in any other respect than to contend that a certain number of people must live near the center of the city. If these people must live in tenements it is best that they be model tenements. With this exception Miss Addams and the other members of the City Homes association are in accord with Commander Tucker.  A report of the association, based on an extended investigation of local conditions, will be issued on Sunday, giving the conclusions reached and recommendations for improvements.

Sees Trend Toward Tenements.

A distinct trend toward tenements can be detected in Chicago, Miss Addams said. The danger of the invasion, she added, lies in the fact that it is unsystematic; that it is setting in without consideration or care. To prevent a duplication of New York conditions in Chicago Miss Addams recommended that some oversight be established in connection with the building of these apartment houses for the poor or the laboring classes.

The Chicago students of this question believe their position, fully explained, would receive the support of Commander Tucker. Keep the tenement away, is the first proposition. Make it as sanitary and healthful as possible when it cannot be kept away is the secondary. In general, it was admitted, with the advantages of Chicago's unconfined area, its broad sweep of prairie, and the possibilities of adequate streets car facilities opening up these stretches, it would be a flouting of natural gifts to permit the tenement to supplant the cottage or house.

Lack of Supervision a Danger.

"Tenements are coming to Chicago, and the great danger lies in the fact that they are coming without supervision," said Miss Addams. "This fact must be recognized if we are to escape the evils of the tenement districts. If they do come it is better to have the sanitary, healthful building rather than the one which copies the defects of the worst styles.

"We are ready to admit with Commander Tucker that the tenement should not be compared with the home. We believe that Chicago people should be taught to go to the outskirts of the city in their search for homes. We are not walled in as New York is, and there can be no excuse for a duplication of New York's system of tenement houses. I should not want to be understood as favoring this.

"At the same time there are a certain number of people who must live near the center of the city. Their work demands that they do, and it is not a question of choice. For these people cottages or houses are out of the question. They must live in tenements. That name carries a certain stigma and there is no reason why their homes should be called so. They can be made apartment houses. It is better that these people should be housed in buildings in the construction of which sanitary rules have been observed, which give air spaces and endeavor to separate the families, than that they should be crowded into the worst class of tenement houses.

Insists on Modern Tenements.

"That is why the building of model tenement houses should be encouraged. I have no doubt that Commander Tucker would agree entirely with the City Homes association that for the people who must live in tenements model tenements should be provided.

"For the same reason some steps should be taken to meet the incoming tenement houses. If they must go up it is better that the proper class of houses be built. Here at Hull House, we have been understood as about to erect a six-story tenement house. Such a thing has never been considered. I would not think of considering anything more than a three-story house. When the tenement house is built is should represent as nearly as possible the standards of the high-grade apartment house—the standard of comfort and convenience."

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