Los Angeles Orphans Asylums

ca 1900s view of the los angeles orphan asylum in boyle heights

(ca. 1900)* – The Los Angeles Orphanage at 917 South Boyle Avenue, southwest corner of Boyle Avenue at Stephenson Avenue (now Whittier Boulevard) in Boyle Heights. The orphanage is a five-story, brick, L-shaped building with dormer windows on the facade and a tower at the entrance that is flanked by newly-planted date palm trees. Steps lead to an arched entryway at the bottom of the tower. Several chimneys sit atop the roof.


The girl’s orphange and school was established in 1856 by six Sisters of Charity nuns from Emmitsburg, Maryland, the motherhouse in the United States. They selected a house with vineyard and orchard belonging to B. D. Wilson for $8,000. This gave the orphanage an income from wine grapes and a supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. The 917 South Boyle Avenue site opened in 1890 on twelve acres and remained open until it was condemned in 1953 and the orphanage moved to Rosemead.*

For over sixty years the facility served thousands of orphaned children in Los Angeles. Concerns over structural integrity came about in the early 1930s when construction crews blasting the hillside next to the asylum for the extension of Sixth Street weakened the massive structure’s foundations. While the building was used for classes during the day, children and staff slept at the basement at St. Vincent’s Hospital in the evenings.

The damage to the building, as well as the notorious freeway construction projects that controversially carved through much of Boyle Heights, led the Daughters to abandon the site and move the facility to Rosemead in the San Gabriel Valley. From 1953, the facility has operated as Maryvale, but has been reconfigured as a residential home for girls from ages six to seventeen. There are also adjunct facilities in El Monte and Duarte.

More on California history: HERE

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