In 1899 D.W. Comstock, founder of the Children's Home Society, enlisted the help of West Virginia Governor George Atkinson to contact U.S. Senator and philanthropist Henry G. Davis. Comstock hoped to discuss funding for a temporary home for children in Charleston, West Virginia.
Later that year Davis committed to purchasing the first building for $10,000. This original property was located on Washington Street between Brooks and Broads Streets. The family from whom the property had been purchased were sympathetic to the Society's cause, having adopted their youngest daughter Lulu. To safeguard his philanthropic investment, Davis insisted that the deed to the house revert back to him if the property was ever used for anything but the intended purpose as an adoption home. The society would be co-owners of the property along with Mr. Davis. In 1960 Children's Home Society obtained the full title from Davis' heirs.
Davis also committed $1,500 for furniture and $1,000 each year for upkeep, and in June of 1900, the home was dedicated as the Davis Child's Transitory Shelter (later shortened to Davis Child Shelter). In the first four years, the shelter served 100 children. Mr. Davis provided a monthly $100 donation for expenses up until his death. His will stated that the society would continue to receive that monthly check from his estate. The society continues to receive Mr. Davis' contribution to this day.
The society received most of the children it served via the county courts, but in some instances, parents simply dropped off children at the adoption home. Fortunately, adoption rates were high: in 1902, over 200 families applied for adoption. Most of the adoptive families were engaged in farming or mining.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Charleston society branched statewide, opening offices in Sistersville and Morgantown. In 1978, a new Davis Child Shelter was established in South Charleston through a state government contract to care for neglected, dependent, and abused children. In 1995, the Davis Child Shelter moved to a new facility near Yeager Airport in Charleston. Similar shelters were added in Northfork, Romney, Martinsburg, Daniels, Huntington, Parkersburg, and Fairlea in the 1980s and 1990s.Today the society operates twelve shelters. Each shelter features adoptive services, foster care, and the building serves as an emergency shelter for children from ages 8-18.
Previous Owners of the House
The Queen Anne-style house in which the Children's Home Society currently resides is on Kanawha Boulevard overlooking the river. Originally built in 1888-1889 as a house for Judge Okey Johnson of the West Virginia State Supreme Court, it was purchased in 1896 by M.T. Davis. He lived there until 1922, during most of which period he served as president of the successful Kanawha Mining Car Company( which later became the present-day Kanawha Manufacturing Company).