Transcription of News Article...
Questions for Fr. Bober
St. Paul Orphanage saved young lives during its 129 years
August 18, 2000, Pittsburgh Catholic*
My mother was at St. Paul Orphanage when she was a child.
I would like to know something about its history and when
this institution closed.
St. Paul Orphanage began in 1836 when three Sisters of Charity from
Emmitsburg, Md., established a home for orphaned girls living in
Pennsylvania granted the institution a charter on April 3, 1840.
In 1845, the Sisters of Charity were recalled to Emmitsburg, and
for two years the orphanage was under the care of women in the
community. In June 1846, the Sisters of Mercy were given care of
the orphanage, and for the next 119 years they continued to offer
it their unselfish and dedicated service.
In 1846, no arrangements were yet available for the care of boys
at the orphanage. At that time, St. Michael Diocesan Seminary was
located in Birmingham (now the South Side of Pittsburgh).
The bishop decided to locate it elsewhere and donated its frame
building and 200 square feet of ground "so that a suitable place
could be established for the care of orphan boys".
Soon afterward, a brick building was constructed, and by year 1851,
St. Paul Orphanage cared for 70 girls (at the Webster Avenue build-
ing) and 24 boys in Birmingham.
While the number of orphans at both locations increased, it became
apparent that a building housing both groups was desirable. Such a
building was constructed on Tannehill Street in Pittsburgh and was
dedicated on June 10, 1866.
Gradually, this new site (on 300 square feet of city property) also
proved inadequate to house the growing number if those in need of its
On May 27, 1900, the cornerstone was laid for the new "St. Paul Orphan
Asylum" on "a plateau at Idlewood between Crafton and Carnegie". The
land, described in documents as "17 acres of ground with good orchard
and several acres of timber", was purchased for $28,000.
Children took up residence in the new building in Idlewood in 1902,
and by 1919 the number of children residing there had reached a peak
In addition to acquiring more land, other improvements were made
steadily (a chapel wing in 1907, a hospital unit in 1911, a separate
school building in 1920, a new maintenance building in 1924 and a new
boys dormitory in 1927).
The last addition, an activities building containing a gymnasium,
swimming pool and auditorium, was dedicated in 1956.
The tremendous work of the orphanage continued until August 1965,
when its program was combined with that of Holy Family Institute in
Emsworth. In September 1965, St. Paul Seminary was opened on the
While an article of this length is an entirely inadequate testimony
to the love and tireless effort of all those involved in the 129
years St. Paul Orphanage existed, written testimony is available.
An interesting tribute has been written by Grace Buxton and the
standard histories of the Diocese of Pittsburgh (Lambing's and
"Catholic Pittsburgh's One Hundred Years") offer the historical
No orphanage could ever take the place of the intimate family unit.
But St. Paul Orphanage and others like it literally saved the lives
of thousands of young people.
Hundreds of sisters and many priests and laity gave their lives in
service to these young people. Countless others took children into
their homes for holiday visits and many others volunteered their
St. Paul Orphanage stands as one of the many institutions founded in
this diocese to extend the hands of Christ to those in need.
*The article above was most generously transcribed and donated to the Orphans' Home Website by Elizabeth (Betsy) A. Banzen. The article initially appeared in the Pittsburgh Catholic on 18 August 2000. It has been reprinted here in transcription form with permission from the Pittsburgh Catholic, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
For more information re St. Paul's R.C. Orphanage, and information re records, please click here: Archives and Records Center of the Diocese of Pittsburgh