Settlement houses are a prism though which the turbulent history of social work can be viewed. This article specifically examines the genesis of social settlements over the past century. It describes the early work of the settlements in spearheading social reform and building community solidarity. It explores the relationship between historic shifts in the political economy and the changed work of settlements, particularly the development of neighborhood houses. Finally, it emphasizes the dynamic interplay in the past twenty years between corporatization of not-for-profit culture, shrinking government funding, and the redefinition of settlement services.