Home for Destitute Children, Brooklyn NY


Home for Destitute Children, 216 Sterling Place, Brooklyn NY

Emily Reese Kidder lived in this orphanage from 1900 to 1905.

One of Emily's fellow inmates at the Home was Mamie Gunderson. Mamie was sent west on an orphan train in 1905. She later recalled memories of her stay at the Home: "On the front of the building, as you go up the long wide steps, inscribed in large stone letters was "Industrial Home for Destitute Children." This orphanage had to be large to house nearly 800 children. It contained a school, chapel, hospital, and wards. The hospital and wards were on the fifth floor, as well as the dormitories. The building was divided in to two wings. The center was spacious, which was a part of the nursery, as well as schoolrooms. The first floor was a dining room where both boys and girls ate their meals. The dining room consisted of long narrow tables like our picnic tables. We sat on stools. At each place was a granite cup of milk and two slices of bread. This was our meal, three times a day, with one exception. On visiting days, we had soup. Also on this floor was the girl's playroom. The bathroom was a large tub with water pipes overhead, with a long trough where each girl would wash her face and hands and scrub her head before going in to the dining room each morning. You wonder why I said scrub her head? The girls had their hair cut short with clippers so they could scrub their hair each morning. On the other wing of the building on the same floor was the boy's playroom and washroom. The girls and boys were separated entirely, even on the playground. The playground was all cement with a brick wall all around and a brick wall to separate the boys from the girls. There were no trees or grass, so for shelter, there was a roof which extended over both the boys and girls playground.

The playroom was a part of the room where the tubs were for cleaning up in the mornings. There were no chairs, tables, or any other furniture. We sat on the floor. We didn't have any toys. All I had as I remember was a doll's trunk, which had been donated by the churches. All the protestant churches in Brooklyn donated whatever they could, as the Orphanage was supported by the churches. Whenever it was a rainy or cold day, we all sat on the floor and the caretaker would teach us Bible chapters. She would read a line and we would repeat it, then another line and repeat, then the two lines, etc., until we could repeat the whole chapter. When I left the Orphanage I knew about ten chapters or more. In the summertime, we would go to the park and sit on the grass, which was so different from the playground at the Orphanage. One time we went to Coney Island where there are were all kinds of amusements, such as the Bumpety-Bumps, Shoot to Shoot and a Merry-Go-Round. The trip was paid for by a man named Harmon. How do I know? We gave a yell, "Harmon, Harmon, HARMON - Hip, Hip, Hurrah!"

The clothes we wore were all alike. The girls wore plaid dresses with just a plain waist and skirt, long sleeves, and an apron of blue and white check was worn over the dress. We made one change, once a week - a clean apron. The boys wore a dark suit with a checked apron over the suit. The clothes were made in a sewing room by three or four women. The girls had to sweep the sewing room once a week."



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this page last edited 06 Dec 2003