In 1852, Beech Brook opened its doors as Cleveland’s first orphanage, marking the beginning of a long legacy of hope and healing for children and families.
Beech Brook was founded by the ladies of the Martha Washington and Dorcas Society, prominent citizens who provided food and clothing to poverty-stricken families. The young city had been ravaged by a cholera epidemic, leaving many children alone and homeless. On January 22, 1852, at a meeting at the Old Stone Church, the ladies resolved to establish the Cleveland Orphan Asylum “for the purpose of sheltering orphaned and destitute children.” Soon after, in a rented house at the corner of Erie (now E. 9th) and Ohio Streets, they welcomed the first 11 children.
Three years later, with the support of Cleveland’s leading families, the institution built its first true home at the corner of Willson (now E. 55th Street) and Woodland Avenue.
In the years that followed, the number of children needing shelter continued to grow, and in 1878, construction began on a second structure that could accommodate 100 children at 5000 St. Clair Avenue. The new home of the Cleveland Protestant Orphan Asylum, as it was now known, was Cleveland’s first fireproof building. Cleveland philanthropist Jeptha Homer Wade paid for the construction of the orphanage, which he regarded as “the holiest of all human charities.”
By the turn of the century, the rapid industrial expansion of Cleveland had surrounded the orphanage with factories, and the search began for a country home.
In 1916, Jeptha Homer Wade, Jr. and his wife gave a gift of the Beech Brook Farm to the orphanage, and by 1926, the institution had moved to its present campus on Lander Road in Pepper Pike.
In the years that followed, social policies began to change, recognizing the importance of keeping children and families together. The advent of public assistance meant that fewer children were placed in orphanages simply because of poverty or single parenthood. Increasingly, the children needing care had mental health or behavioral problems due to family issues, abuse or neglect, and the focus of the agency shifted more and more toward treatment. By the late 1950s, the transition from orphanage to treatment center was complete.
Although residential treatment remained a mainstay of Beech Brook’s programs, the agency began to expand its programs to help children in their homes and schools, providing the help they needed before their problems became severe. By the 1990s, while residential and day treatment for the most seriously troubled children continued on the campus, the development of community-based services to provide earlier intervention and preserve families had expanded Beech Brook’s reach to families throughout the Greater Cleveland area.
In June 2016, Beech Brook closed its residential treatment programs to focus more attention on the community-based prevention and early intervention programs that strengthen families and keep children living safely in their homes.
Today, as a leading behavioral health agency, Beech Brook continues to serve 18,000 children, teens and families each year. From prevention, educationand early intervention programs to community-based services for at-risk youth, Beech Brook continues to pursue its mission for children and families.
For more information about Beech Brook, contact us.