Helen Culver

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Helen Culver (1832–1925) was a successful real estate developer and philanthropist. She owned Hull House and rented it to Jane Addams, before later giving the property to Addams along with hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations, contributing substantially to founding the comprehensive settlement-house movement in the United States. She was a trustee of Hull House until 1898.

Culver graduated from Randolph Academy, Randolph, New York in 1852. In 1853 she started a private school in Sycamore, Illinois, and from 1854-1861 she served as teacher and principal in various Chicago schools. From 1868 to 1889 Culver worked with her cousin, Charles Hull, in his real estate ventures in Chicago and around the country, including Atlanta and Jacksonville, Florida. When Hull died in 1889, Culver inherited the real estate business.1

Besides backing Jane Addams, Culver supported several other important scholarly causes, such as giving over $1.1 million to the University of Chicago, making her one of the University's most important early donors.2. In 1906 she gave $50,000 to William I. Thomas to fund a study of The Polish Peasant in Europe and America3. Culver died in 1925.


  1. Lake Forest Country Places Part XII: "Rookwoods" at 1O80 Ashlawn: Home of Helen Culver by Arthur Miller, published in the Lake Forest Journal, 10/12/1995 [1]
  2. Building for a Long Future: The University of Chicago and its donors, 1889-1930, By Brandon L. Johnson, The University of Chicago Library, 2001
  3. The Origins Of American Social Science by Dorothy Ross