Gads Hill Center Collection

Dates: Circa 1900-1950
Size: 175 photographs, 2 drawings, 1 scrapbook/photoalbum
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Harold Washington Library Center, Special Collections, 400 S. State St., Chicago, IL 60605
Collection Number: Archives_ghc
Provenance: Mr. Reginald Horsman donated the Gad Hill Center Collection to the Special Collections & Preservation Division at the Harold Washington Library Center in 2006.
Access: No restrictions
Citation: When quoting material from this collection the preferred citation is: Gads Hill Center Collection [Box #, Folder #], Special Collections, Chicago Public Library.
Processed by: The collection was processed in July of 2009.

Historical Note

Gads Hill Center was established as a settlement house in 1898 in the Pilsen Community to serve the needs of poor immigrant families. Gads Hill Center was called Gads Hill Social Settlement until 1916 and the original mission was “to improve the living conditions of the neighborhood and to assist and stimulate the people of the district through education, helpful recreation, wholesome social intercourse, and neighborly cooperation…” Through the years the center has offered services which include: a nursery school, kindergarten, Head Start programs and parent education classes; a music school and an alternative high school; an employment agency and a Community Technology Center. Gads Hill Center was also the home of a Chicago Public Library sub-branch until 1988.

Over 100 years old, Gads Hill Center is currently still operating at the original address at 1919 West Cullerton. It serves the largely Mexican immigrant community of Pilsen, in which it is located, as well as the Near West Side neighborhoods of North Lawndale, Little Village and Back of the Yards.

Pilsen is bounded by the Chicago River on the south and east and the Burlington Railroad on the west and is within the Lower West Side Community Area. It was first occupied by Irish and Germans immigrants who settled here in the 1840s. Many jobs for unskilled laborers were available in this heavily industrial area after the Chicago fire of 1871and Bohemians immigrants came in great numbers. Italians, Lithuanians, Poles and others followed but the neighborhood takes its name from a city in West Bohemia.

Mexican migrants began to move into Pilsen during labor shortages in World War I and later, as the University of Illinois expanded in the 1950s and 1960s, displacing Mexican residents on the Near West Side. Today Pilsen is a strong predominately Mexican American community that celebrates cultural traditions with vibrant Hispanic themed neighborhood festivals and murals.

Scope and Content

The materials in the Gads Hill Center Collection consist of individual photographs, a photo album/scrapbook and drawings which document the activities of the settlement house circa 1900 to 1950. The scrapbook pages are in the order in which they were when obtained by the library. The two drawings are included in the portrait series. The mostly undated and unidentified individual photographs had no order when accessioned and are arranged in the following subject groupings:

Buildings, exterior

These photographs include unidentified buildings and a photo of the Neighborhood House in St. Paul, Minnesota. Undated except where noted.

Buildings, interior

This group of photographs includes images of interior spaces, unidentified except where noted on the back of the photos. Undated except where noted.

Groups and individuals, exterior

These photographs include gatherings of mostly unidentified adults and children outside of buildings, on the rooftop and in the woods. One is taken at Miller Settlement camp. Undated except where noted.

Groups and individuals, interior

These photographs include images of groups and individuals in a library, classroom and other interior spaces, inside Gads Hill Center. Unidentified and undated except where noted on the back of the photos.


These photographs include images of unidentified adults and children on a playground, with playground equipment and playing games. Undated except where noted.

Plays and Pageants, interior and exterior

These photographs feature groups of unidentified people in costumes and makeup. Undated except where noted.

Portraits, interior and exterior

These photographs include images of John Krainik, Frank Stachnik, and Henry Browman and other unidentified individuals. Two drawings are also included here, one of a woman sewing and one of a girl with a broom. Undated except where noted.


The two oversize images and the two drawings have been removed to the Scrapbook Box.

Container List

Photographs and Drawings

Photographs 1.1-1.3 Buildings, exterior, undated
Photographs 1.4-1.14 Buildings, interior, undated
Photographs 1.15-1.97 Groups and individuals, exterior, undated
Photograph 1.98, Scrapbook Box Groups and individuals, exterior, undated
Photographs 1.99-1.119 Groups and individuals, interior, undated
Photograph 1.120, Scrapbook Box Groups and individuals, interior, undated
Photographs 1.121-1.141 Playground, undated
Photographs, 1.142-1.160 Plays and pageants, undated
Photographs 1.161-1.175 Portraits
Drawing 1.176, Scrapbook Box Woman sewing, undated
Drawing 1.177, Scrapbook Box Girl with a broom, undated


The photographs in the scrapbook are mostly exterior shots of groups of people dating from 1920 to 1924.

Scrapbook Includes photographs of:
  • Alice-Blue Club
  • Boy’s Week Parade
  • Gads Hill Center
  • Girls’ clubs, boys’ clubs
  • Gyro Club Palos Park
  • Hubbard Woods
  • Inter-Settlement Track Meet
  • Kindergarten
  • Lincoln Park
  • Memorial Day
  • Mi Chicago Club
  • Mothers’ Club
  • Picnics
  • Silver Stars
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