Question:My mother was at St. Paul Orphanage when she was a child.Answer:
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 Pittsburgh.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 services.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 of 1,200.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 orphanage site.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 details.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 professional services.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
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