DC Ministries, St. Vincent Orphan Asylum, Philadelphia

St. Vincent Orphan Asylum Philadelphia

Architect’s drawing of St. Vincent Orphan Asylum, Philadelphia, 1920

(Photo of St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum, Philadelphia, 1920, used with permission of the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)

St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum in Philadelphia was begun by a small group of laymen in 1850. Bishop John Neumann requested Daughters of Charity to take over the work in 1855 and in 1858 St. Vincent Orphan Asylum was incorporated in the State of Pennsylvania. In 1920 the orphanage moved into this building, located on a 33 acre site at Garrett Road and Lansdowne Avenue. Completion of the building was delayed by the outbreak of World War I; the dedication of the building took place on May 9, 1920. The dedication ceremonies were witnessed by an estimated 116,000 spectators, making it the largest gathering in the state of Pennsylvania up to that time.

By the late 1940s, St. Vincent’s housed approximately 90 boys ages 4-7 and 350 girls. Over its first century more than 13,500 children lived there. However, a new trend towards foster home care for dependent children was gradually reducing the number of children cared for at St. Vincent’s, reflecting a pattern seen all over the country. Meanwhile there was an increased need for additional facilities for the ever growing Catholic High School population.

In 1953 children living at St. Vincent’s were transferred to Our Lady of the Way, St. David’s and the orphanage was converted to Archbishop Prendergast High School for Boys. Upon the completion of Msgr. Banner High School in 1956, the building became Archbishop Prendegast High School for Girls.
In 1958 St. Vincent’s Home merged with Gonzaga Home in Germantown.


Filed under Ministries, Social Work

2 responses to “DC Ministries, St. Vincent Orphan Asylum, Philadelphia

  1. Betsy Kingsbury

    My mother Elaine Clawson (deceased) is listed in the 1940 census as a 7 year old “pupil” at St. Vincent’s Home for Children at Garrett Rd. & Lansdowne. Are there any resources where I can find out more information about the time that she spent living there?


    • If you are looking for background and “experiential” information, we have a number of histories and scrapbooks that can be informative. Please reach out at archives@doc.org for access to these. If you are looking for specific information about your mother, you may want to try either Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia or the Archdiocesan Research Center (archives@chrc-phila.org).


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