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Hull House closes its doors

Hull House, the Chicago social services organization founded more than 120 years ago by the Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams, closed Friday after running out of money.

The agency said the poor economy created more demand for its services but made it harder to raise money to cover its costs. Hull House has been providing child care, job training, housing assistance and other services for 60,000 people a year in the Chicago area.

The agency had announced plans to close in the spring, but Friday's shutdown was unexpected, striking some 300 employees with a devastating and unexpected blow. They received layoff notices and final paychecks and then spent the day packing their belongings and saying tearful goodbyes. Many said they were startled to learn their insurance ended almost two weeks ago.

Founded in 1889, Hull House was the best known of the 400 settlement houses in the United States in the early 1900s. The settlements were designed to provide services to immigrants and the poor while uplifting them through culture, education and recreation. At its peak, Hull House served more than 9,000 people a week, offering medical help, an art gallery, citizenship classes, a gardening club and a gym with sports programs.

Agency officials have said it is millions of dollars in debt and the decision to close came after managers and trustees worked for two years to reduce operating costs and improve services.