The Irene Kaufmann Settlement House was a community center providing cultural and educational programming in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. It emerged in the early 20th century out of the work of the Columbian Council of Jewish Women (now known as the National Council of Jewish Women-Pittsburgh Section). The Columbian Council started the Columbian School in early 1896 for the children of Jewish immigrant families in the Hill District and gradually expanded the school to include offerings associated with the settlement house movement, including citizenship programming for adult populations in the neighborhood. It assumed responsibility for the Russian School starting in 1899.
The Columbian School rented rooms at 32 Townsend St. in the Hill District in 1897. In early 1900, the Columbian Council School incorporated as a distinct legal entity and purchased the former Slagle Mansion at 1835 Center Ave. The building was expanded in 1903 with the $10,000 Peacock Bath House, including a gymnasium, a 300-seat assembly hall, a swimming pool, and bathing facilities. The Columbian Council School added a nursing program, first overseen by a Miss Cherry and later by Anna B. Heldman.
With the growth of the immigrant population of the Hill District in the first decade of the 20th century, the Columbian Council School again needed to expand. In April 1909, Henry and Theresa Kaufmann donated $150,000 and an annual maintenance budget to build the new Irene Kaufmann Settlement House, named after a daughter who had died unexpectedly several years earlier. With the donation, Cassie Reiter Weil resigned her long-standing presidency of the organization and was replaced by Nathaniel Spear.
The six-story Irene Kaufmann Settlement House was dedicated in 1911. It became one of the founding beneciaries of the Federation of the Jewish Charities of Pittsburgh in 1912. Under the leadership of Sydney Teller, it provided a range of cultural, educational, health, and civic services from the 1920s into the 1940s. Staff included Anna B. Heldman, Samuel Rosenberg, Anna Perlow, Sam Gerson, Nate Kaufman, Joseph “Ziggy” Kahn, Harry “Doc” Ratner, and Yetta Oberfield. The building was also used by many local Jewish groups such as the Hebrew Free Loan Association and the Pittsburgh Hebrew School. The Irene Kaufmann Settlement House was expanded in 1928 to include a large auditorium used for local theatrical productions, as well as community gatherings.
With the change in demographics in the Hill District in the 1930s, the Irene Kaufmann Settlement House undertook a “self-study” in a 1940s. As a result of the study, the organization adopted more racially inclusive policies at its Hill District campus and began organizing satellite branches in the emerging Jewish neighborhoods in Squirrel Hill and the East End. These new satellites eventually became known as the Irene Kaufmann Center. The new Anna B. Heldman Community Center began renting the Hill District facilities starting in 1957 and later transitioned into the Hill House Association.