History of International Houses Worldwide

The International House movement was founded back in the early 1900s due to the plight of international students, be that inadequate housing or simply loneliness, being highlighted by some chance meetings.

In Philadelphia Dr. Waldo Stevenson (a missionary), began entertaining foreign students in his modest apartment and by 1910, the work had expanded so much that he took the case to the Christian Association, the project grew further and International House Philadelphia was born.

Harry Edmonds decided to investigate the situation of foreign students having bumped into a Chinese student in New York City and with the funding and support of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the first purpose built International House opened in New York in 1924.

A Brief History of International Houses Worldwide Inc.

The origins of International Houses Worldwide Inc. (IHWW Inc.) date back to 1948, when the International House Association (IHA), comprised of the Rockefeller-funded International Houses in New York, Chicago, Berkeley and Paris, was incorporated. The IHA focused principally on alumni of the four organizations. It produced enthusiastic alumni who began to form groups around the world. On November 10 (1936), the International House New York Alumni Association adopted a formal constitution. That day became International House Day, an annual occasion for alumni of Houses to gather in cities such as Stockholm, Oslo, Mexico City, Beijing (Peking), Port-au-Prince and Copenhagen. Berkeley Executive Director Emeritus W. Sheridan Warrick describes the activities of the Association:

Founded under the leadership that included David Rockefeller, the IHA sought to work toward the brotherhood of man by gaining better knowledge and understanding of life and culture of all people and to cooperate with the International Houses and other organisations devoted to international understanding and world peace. By 1952, the IHA claimed forty-four chapters in 27 countries.

Although IHA chapters around the world continued to be active for some years, escalating costs forced the central organization to terminate its activities in 1961. Within Australia, the I-Houses in the 1970s held ‘corroborees’ whereby residents from Wollongong, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane came together to sustain the IH identity.

In July, 1961, a world conference of International Houses and Centers was held at Cité Universitaire in Paris, and in May, 1971, a second meeting was convened in Vancouver, B.C. to exchange information on programs, operations, financing, the building of new International Houses, and any other pertinent questions which participants may wish to explore.

In the 1980s, a smaller group known as Heads of International Houses began holding regular meetings. In the 1990s the group began the practice of hosting meetings and now conferences at International Houses around the world, including gatherings in Alberta (2007), Berkeley (1995), Brisbane (1997, 2011), Chicago (1992), Darwin (2014), London (2004), Melbourne (2006) New York (1985, 1999, 2013), Philadelphia (2001, 2010), Sydney and Wollongong (1988, 2009), and Taipei (2003). This tradition will continue and in 2016 the conference will be held in London, UK.

The group formally changed its name to International Houses Worldwide and was incorporated on October 28, 2010. Our official location for the purposes of incorporation is I-House New York with the role of Treasurer residing in the US (currently in Philadelphia). The recent presidents of IHWW Inc. have been: Peter Anwyl (London), Associate Professor Jane Munro (Melbourne), Donald L. Cuneo (New York), Tanya Steinberg (Philadelphia), and Dr Carla Tromans (Brisbane). Dr Denise Jorgens (Chicago) is the current president. An aim for the leadership of this group is to be inclusive and to encourage representation from around the world.

This group of International Houses or I-Houses shares a similar mission and most were conceived through philanthropic endeavours such as the Quakers, the Rockefeller and Dodge families, Rotary International, the Duke of Grafton and the Hon. Patrick Wills, and the Goodenough family. Although we observe different traditions some I-Houses continue to embed the I-House New York Harry Edmonds story, Sunday Suppers, the Candle-lighting Ceremony and the International House Pledge to cement and celebrate our collective history.

Contact: Dr Carla Tromans, I-House Brisbane July 2014

Note: Individual I-Houses each have their own history most of which can either be found on their websites, by reading their historical accounts captured in text or books, or by contacting the individual I-House.