One of the premier social service agencies in the nation, Firman Community Services was founded in November 1872 as an outreach mission of the Clinton Street Church, Harrison Street Mission, and 12th Street Mission. From these three organizations, the Ewing Street Congregational Church was founded and the outreach mission moved to the old river ward on Chicago's West Side. Over a period of time, Ewing's congregation began to falter. So in 1910, the Second Church of Oak Park, assisted by the Chicago Missionary Society, continued the missionary work and enacted measures to formalize their efforts. Ewing parishioner Douglas Winfield Firman took on the work so enthusiastically that both a church and the mission unit were named in his honor.
On November 11, 1927, "Firman House" became a structured, self-identified agency, complete with a constitution. As such, Firman Community Services is the oldest settlement house in Illinois and the second oldest in the United States.