Boys Town (organization)

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Father Flanagan's Boys' Home
Boys Town NFS.JPG
Boys Town (organization) is located in Nebraska
Boys Town (organization)
Location Boys Town, Nebraska
Coordinates 41°15′52″N 96°7′58″W / 41.26444°N 96.13278°W / 41.26444; -96.13278Coordinates: 41°15′52″N 96°7′58″W / 41.26444°N 96.13278°W / 41.26444; -96.13278
Built 1917
Architect Daly, Leo A., Construction
Architectural style Tudor Revival, Other
NRHP Reference # 85002439
Significant dates
Added to NRHP February 4, 1985[1]
Designated NHL February 4, 1985[2]

Boys Town, formerly Girls and Boys Town and Father Flanagan's Boys' Home, is a non-profit organization dedicated to caring for its children and families, with national headquarters in the village of Boys Town, Nebraska. The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated as a National Historic Landmark on February 4, 1985.

The first Boys Town was founded as a boys' orphanage in December 1917 by Edward J. Flanagan, a Roman Catholic priest working in Omaha. The "City of Little Men" pioneered[3] development of new juvenile care methods in 20th-century America, emphasizing social preparation as a model for public boys' homes worldwide.

In 1943 Boys Town adopted as its image and logo a picture of a boy carrying a younger boy on his back, captioned "He ain't heavy, Father ... he's m' brother!" They felt it epitomized the importance of their residents caring for each other and having someone care about them.[4] The saying inspired a song and album by The Hollies.


In 1917, a young Irish priest named Father Edward J. Flanagan grew discouraged in his work with homeless men in Omaha, Nebraska. He shifted his attention and in December of that year, borrowed $90 to pay the rent on a boarding house that became Father Flanagan’s Home for Boys. Flanagan welcomed all boys, regardless of their race or religion. By the spring, 100 boys were living at the Home.

In 1921, Father Flanagan purchased Overlook Farm on the outskirts of Omaha and moved his Boys’ Home there. In time, the Home became known as the Village of Boys Town. By the 1930s, hundreds of boys lived at the Village which grew to include a school, dormitories and administration buildings. The boys elected their own government which included a mayor, council and commissioners. In 1936, the community was incorporated as a village by the state of Nebraska. [5]

International acclaim[edit]

News of Father Flanagan’s work spread worldwide with the success of the 1938 movie Boys Town. Spencer Tracy won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Father Flanagan, which he later donated to the priest. After World War II, President Harry Truman asked Flanagan to take his message to the world. He traveled the globe visiting war orphans and advising government leaders on how to care for displaced children.

Although Father Flanagan died in 1948, his work at Boys Town, which Flanagan called “God’s work”, continued. Monsignor Nicholas H. Wegner became the new Executive Director of Boys Town and under his watchful eye, Boys Town doubled in population, gained solid financial footing and expanded educational, vocational, athletic and arts opportunities for its residents. Monsignor Wegner retired in 1973 and was succeeded by Monsignor Robert P. Hupp. [6]

Expansion and change[edit]

Hupp oversaw two significant changes at Boys Town. The innovative Family Home Program replaced dormitory living and girls began coming to Boys Town for help. The Family Home Program continues today as one of Boys Town’s trademark treatment approaches, where children live in homes and are cared for by married couples known as Family-Teachers. The Boys Town National Research Hospital opened in 1977, during Hupp’s tenure. Today, the hospital is a nationally-recognized treatment center for children with hearing and speech disorders and helps 60,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing students each year.

Father Valentine J. Peter led Boys Town from 1985 to 2005. During his tenure, Boys Town expanded its programs and services to more than 12 sites across America. The number of children and families served by Boys Town skyrocketed, and the quality of care improved as new research-based services were developed. Boys Town opened its National Hotline in 1989. [7]

National locations[edit]

Boys Town has grown and now provides care to children and families across the country. It is located in 12 regions across the country: California, Nevada, Texas, Nebraska, Iowa, Louisiana, North Florida, Central Florida, South Florida, Washington, D.C., New York and New England.[8]

Facilities include the Hall of History dedicated to the history of Boys Town, the restored home of Father Flanagan, the Dowd Memorial Chapel and the Chambers Protestant Chapel, and the Leon Myers Stamp Center. The latter provides historical stamp collecting exhibits and sells donated stamps to provide support for Boys Town programs.[9] Summer Camp on West Lake Okoboji. Located: West Okoboji, Iowa 51351

In popular culture[edit]


External links[edit]