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Oliver M. Kaufmann Photograph Collection of the Irene Kaufmann Settlement, 1912-1969, AIS.1978.12
Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

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What’s online

The Kaufmann Settlement online collection contains 281 images from the years 1912 through 1941 depicting activities at the Irene Kaufmann Settlement, including its Emma Farm Camp, the Better Baby Clinic, the Milk Well, and the Better Neighborhood Contest. The Irene Kaufmann Settlement, a neighborhood social welfare agency, was one of the first settlements of its kind in the United States and its highly successful programs were looked on as models.

Images were selected that best visually documented the history and activities of the Irene Kaufmann Settlement. Images were chosen that depicted children's activities, educational activities, and IKS endeavors to improve the community.

What’s in the entire collection

The collection, held by the Archives Service Center (ASC) of the University of Pittsburgh, comprises approximately 3,000 photographic prints taken between 1912 and 1969, with the bulk of the images documenting Settlement activities from 1918 through 1941.

About the Irene Kaufmann Settlement

The Columbian School, which would eventually evolve into the Irene Kaufmann Settlement, opened on January 5, 1896, through the efforts of Rabbi Lippman Mayer of Rodef Shalom Congregation, who developed the Russian School for Jewish immigrant children, and Mrs. A. Leo (Cassie) Weil, President of the Columbian Council. With a volunteer staff and philanthropic support, the school enrolled two hundred students by the end of the first year. The Columbian School’s first residence was in a small room on Miller Street in the Hill District; it then moved to the Sunday school rooms of Rodef Shalom in 1897.

In the fall of 1897, the school relocated to 32 Townsend Street, still in the Hill District. Here, the Council rented two rooms at $15 per month. In April 1898, the entire building was rented at a cost of $26.50 per month. The six rooms of the house included a bathroom and a library; the others were used for classroom and meeting space. The school offered day courses geared to new immigrants, including English, sewing, and arts and crafts, and became a gathering place for the community in the evenings and a place where dances were held.

Though the population of the Hill District at this time was predominately Jewish and the school sponsored many opportunities for Jewish education, its services were open to the entire community. In 1899, a full slate of evening courses were introduced, and the school relocated to 1835 Centre Avenue in the Hill District in 1900. In 1906, the Columbian School became known as the Columbian School and Settlement.

In 1907, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Kaufmann, proprietors of Kaufmann’s Department Store in downtown Pittsburgh, made a donation in memory of their daughter, Irene Kaufmann, to construct a larger building on the site of 1835 Centre Avenue, to be known as the Irene Kaufmann Settlement. The Settlement was non-sectarian and continued to aid the Hill District community until 1959, when it moved to Squirrel Hill and joined forces with the Young Men’s Hebrew Association and the Young Women’s Hebrew Association to become Y-IKS. In 1972, the Irene Kaufmann Settlement changed its name to the Jewish Community Center.

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