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The Northern Home for Friendless Children (known today as Northern Children's Services) is an organization aimed at supporting child development and community stability. This institution, originally founded by Elizabeth E. Hutter in 1853, was intended to serve as a residential refuge for poor and neglected children. This organization still operates today, offering residential programs, employment training, and health care services to struggling and formerly homeless families.

The Northern Home for Friendless Children

Building, House, Window, Art

The Northern Home for Friendless Children (known today as Northern Children’s Services) is an organization aimed at supporting child development and community stability. This institution was originally founded in 1853 by Elizabeth E. Hutter. She intended to create a “residential refuge” for children and to serve “destitute and neglected children, ignorant or forsaken, little boys or girls under twelve years of age”. The original building was erected by the Spring Garden Soup Society and was located on Buttonwood Street. 

In January 1853, Pennsylvania State Legislature passed an act to charter The Northern Home for Friendless Children. This act entrusted management to twenty-four women acting as board of managers as well as to a board of trustees, comprised of sixteen men. It also guaranteed that the institution was “authorized to receive such white children under twelve years, as may be surrendered to them by their parents or guardians; and also bound to receive all such children as may be committed to them by the Mayor of Philadelphia, and by the Judges of the several courts for the County of Philadelphia”. 

In 1854, the organization relocated to the Northeastern corner of 23rd & Brown Streets and opened its doors to the public. This building, designed by architect Samuel Sloan and constructed by carpenter John Stewart, cost $21,500 and was capable of housing 114 children. During the period of 1854 through 1860, a total of 1300 children were admitted to the Northern Home. 

The organization moved to its third and present location at 5301 Ridge Avenue in Wissahickon Philadelphia in 1923. This new campus sprawled over six acres and included services and amenities such as dormitories, a dining hall, a library, and an infirmary with attending doctors, nurses, and dentists. In 1927, architect Horace Trumbauer helped renovate multiple structures on the campus such as the Main Building, Infirmary, and Boy’s Building/Dormitory. 

By 1953, 100 children were housed at what was then simply referred to as the Northern Home for Children. This period introduced the organization’s shift to administering more tailored, individualized programs for struggling or in-need children. Throughout the 1970s and onwards, the Northern Home began to de-emphasize its residential program in favor of other services such as preventative healthcare, education, and employment/housing assistance. In 2012, the organization changed its name to “Northern Children’s Services” in order to better reflect the primary care it began providing. However, Northern still retains its residential programs today for young mothers and their children (particularly those at imminent risk of homelessness). These services administer prenatal, pediatric, and dental care in addition to education, employment training, and substance-use prevention. The program also provides permanent supportive housing to formerly homeless single parents aged 18-24. Foster and adoption services are also offered by Northern.

1940 Census Population Schedules- Pennsylvania- Philadelphia County- ED 51- 413, National Archives. Accessed April 30th, 2023.

Annual Report (1854-1859), National Library of Medicine. Accessed April 30th, 2023.

Athenaeum of Philadelphia. Northern Home for Friendless Children, Philadelphia Architects & Buildings. Accessed April 30th, 2023.

Northern Children. Accessed April 30th, 2023.

The Northern Home for Friendless Children, Free Library of Philadephia. Accessed April 30th, 2023.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Free Library of Philadelphia