You simply cannot tell the story of Erie Neighborhood House without talking about Florence Towne. Towne arrived at Erie Neighborhood House from suburban Chicago in 1914 to teach kindergarten and serve as girls’ group leader.
Thus began Towne’s lifelong devotion to Erie House: she became head resident—it was common for staff and families to live on-site at Erie House during its settlement house era—in 1926 and lived at 1347 W Erie St until her death 25 years later. Under her direction, Erie House launched such creative initiatives as a Keep Our Neighborhood Clean campaign, child care, a dental clinic, and a hygienist training program.
Towne’s passionate leadership and servant’s heart earned her the moniker “Angel of the Alleys” from Reader’s Digest, and she devoted her life to empowering each individual who walked through the doors at Erie House. “Our task is to…challenge [our neighbors] with their responsibilities and opportunities,” Towne wrote in her memoire, Neighbors, “and then stand beside them and say, ‘I believe in you. Together we will tackle this job and win.’”
That spirit still prevails at Erie House today as we strive to strengthen low-income families through skill-building, access to critical resources, advocacy and collaborative action.
Meet these extraordinary individuals and learn how they have each played a role in our journey to 145 years of service.