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History

 

 

A Beacon of Hope in our Community

At Kingsley House, we are proud of our rich history in helping to improve the lives of families in the community. During our many years of service, we have served a vast array of people; we helped Irish and German immigrants settle in New Orleans during the end of the 19th century, provided neighborhood children and families with educational and recreational opportunities throughout the 20th century, and continue to help residents resettle after Hurricane Katrina in the new millennium.

While the needs of the community have changed over the years, Kingsley House has retained its fundamental mission to educate children, strengthen families and build community.

Established in 1896

Kingsley House was founded in 1896 by the Reverend Beverley Warner of Trinity Episcopal Church and is the oldest settlement house in the South. Warner, a graduate of Princeton and native of New Jersey, came to New Orleans in 1893 to Trinity Church and saw a need for action in the nearby neighborhood. In addition to being a clergyman, he was an author who advocated the use of wealth to help the poor to improve their livelihood while maintaining self respect, as exemplified in his novel Troubled Waters. He eventually realized the fruition of his ideals when he established Kingsley House to help immigrants overcome language, cultural, social and family displacement barriers as they settled in New Orleans.

Legacy of Eleanor McMain

Eleanor McMain was instrumental in shaping Kingsley House into a model of excellence in the field of social work. After taking over day-to-day operations as head resident in 1901, she ensured the settlement house offered programs comparable to any in the country. In the years to come under her direction, Kingsley House became a New Orleans institution and she herself would gain fame as a social activist and one of the preeminent social workers in the U.S. In fact, she helped establish the Tulane School of Social Work, which was formally instituted at the Kingsley House campus in 1921 and is the fifth-oldest school of social work in the country. She also visited Hull House in Chicago and worked closely with Jane Addams to develop effective methods in meeting the needs of the residents and the surrounding community. Her vision and legacy continues to shape the mission of Kingsley House to this day by providing services the community needs most.

Early Programs

In the early days, Kingsley House actively identified problems facing the community and worked together with key stakeholders in the community to develop solutions. For example, staff and members gathered facts about tuberculosis and formed the Anti-Tuberculosis League, where doctors provided free health clinical visits and checkups. Kingsley House also worked to pass a child labor law and helped eradicate yellow fever by screening windows and cisterns throughout the neighborhood. In addition, classes were offered to teach valuable trade skills and general education. In fact, the first kindergarten in the state of Louisiana was introduced at Kingsley House and was provided free of charge to children living in the neighborhood. Lighthouse for the Blind also evolved from Kingsley House classes for the sight impaired in 1916.

Haven for Recreational and Social Activities

Throughout its history, Kingsley House has been a recreational, educational and social center for thousands upon thousands of youth in the surrounding area, particularly among residents of the adjacent St. Thomas housing development which was erected in the 1940s. Over the years, a myriad of sporting events, dances and other recreational activities have been held on our grounds. Our swimming pool, which opened in 1957, was the first integrated pool in the city of New Orleans and provided all children in the area with hours of enjoyment and much needed swim instruction during the sweltering summer months. Kingsley House is also the venue where countless young boys and girls learned to play basketball, volleyball, badminton and other sports, and continue to do so today. In fact, the New Orleans Recreation Department was first instituted at Kingsley House.