A brief history of the Charleston Orphan House
1790: The Charleston Orphan House is founded as the nation’s first municipal orphanage. It served poor white children and also created one of South Carolina’s earliest educational systems.
1791: President George Washington would lay its cornerstone on the Boundary Street site (later renamed Calhoun Street) that once had a Revolutionary-War-era barracks.
1850s: Architects Jones & and Lee remodel the building, creating the grand structure that survives only in old photographs.
1860s: The Orphan House’s enrollment peaks at 334 children shortly after the Civil War.
1948: A Child Welfare League of America is critical of the orphan house’s operation, and its governing commissioners begin to take heed.
1951: The commissioners buy 37 acres of property known as Oak Grove Plantation in North Charleston to relocate the children to a more home-like setting.
1956: The grand Charleston Orphan House building at St. Philip and Coming streets is torn down to build a Sears.
1978: The Orphan House ceases to be a city agency and becomes a nonprofit called the Carolina Youth Development Center.
Today: The center continues to serve children through residential and outreach programs.
The Preservation Society of Charleston, the Carolina Youth Development Center, The Post and Courier