From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A protectory was a Roman Catholic institution for the shelter and training of the young, designed to afford neglected or abandoned children shelter, food, raiment and the rudiments of an education in religion, morals, science and manual training or industrial pursuits.

Institutions of this nature were to be found in most of the dioceses of the United States. They were usually opened to receive orphans, truants, juvenile delinquents, and destitute children. The largest, by far, was the Catholic Protectory in New York.


Secular protectories or reform schools, or euphemistically termed "training schools", were instituted in America during the initial quarter of the nineteenth century. On 1 January 1825, the House of Refuge was opened with appropriate exercises on what is now Madison Square, New York City. Nine children, just gathered from the streets, were present and formed the nucleus of the new establishment that later grew to vast proportions on Randalls Island. Boston followed with a similar institution in 1826; Philadelphia in 1828; and in 1855 a girls' reformatory was founded at Lancaster, Massachusetts on the family or cottage plan, dividing the institution into three separate houses of thirty girls each, with their three matrons, all under the general supervision of a superintendent.[1] In the great majority of cases the institutions were public, but in several states the reformation and correction of delinquents was entrusted in whole or in part to private or religious agencies.


San Michéle, the first protectory for youth, was founded at Rome in 1704 by Pope Clement XI. When John Howard, the English prison reformer (1726–90), visited the institution, he read above the entrance this inscription: "Clement XI, Supreme Pontiff, for the reformation and education of criminal youths, to the end that those who when idle had been injurious to the State, might, when better instructed and trained, become useful to it. In the Year of Grace 1704; of the Pontiff, the fourth". On a marble slab inserted in one of the interior walls he read further: "It is of little use to restrain criminals by punishment, unless you reform them by education". This became the keynote of modern penology. The inmates worked together by day in a large hall where was hung up in large letters, visible to all, the Latin word silentium, indicating that the work must go on in silence. At night they slept in separate cells. This system of associated or congregate labour in silence by day and cellular separation at night, for which, under the name of the Auburn System, so much excellence has been claimed in American penology, was thus inaugurated at Rome in the beginning of the eighteenth century, more than a hundred years prior to the introduction of the method into use here. The same pontiff established in connexion with this foundation of San Michéle a special court for the trial of offenders under twenty years of age, a plan that has re-appeared in the Juvenile Courts established in America and elsewhere for the trial of delinquents under (seventeen years of) age.[1]

New York Catholic Protectory[edit]

New York Catholic Protectory
New York Catholic Protectory, Bronx, New York (circa. 1897)

The New York Catholic Protectory was, at one time, the largest child welfare organization in the country. By the mid 1860s, many children in New York City were the offspring of immigrants living in squalid and disease-ridden neighborhoods. Adding to the destitution was the fact that casualties of the Civil War left many women widows and their children fatherless.[2] "The Society for the Protection of Destitute Roman Catholic Children in the City of New York" was chartered in 1863.

Former Episcopal bishop of North Carolina Levi Silliman Ives was the founder and first president of the Catholic Protectory.[3] It began with two buildings on Thirty-sixth and Thirty-seventh Streets in Manhattan, for boys under the care of the Christian Brothers,[4] a congregation founded in France, in the first quarter of the eighteenth century, by St. John Baptiste de la Salle for the training and correction of wayward youth. Many of the boys received have been adjudicated truants. The Boys Department subsequently relocated to Eighty-six Street and Fifth Ave.

In October 1863, a building at the corner of Eighty-sixth Street and Second Avenue was secured for girls and placed under the direction of the Sisters of Charity. This proving too small, a forty-acre farm was purchased in Westchester and a new building erected in 1859. When that building burned in 1872, the older girls were instructed to each escort a younger one and all escaped injury. Along with religious instruction and an elementary school education in common subjects, many girls were taught trades and often given the opportunity to work outside the school in favorable conditions. Those who showed either interest or aptitude received lessons in music, art, or crafts from the sisters.[4]

In 1865 the Protectory purchased the William Varian 114 acre farm in the village of West Chester near St. Raymond's Church. A school and dormitories were built. The institution was an integral part of the parish until it was sold in 1938.[5] Besides orphans placed there by the Charity Commission, and juvenile delinquents placed by the courts, the Protectory also accepted children placed there by parents or guardians unable to adequately provide for them. By 1878, the Protectory was serving over 3,000 children annually. According to Janet Butler Munch, "It effectively served as a safety net for children and families in need. The goal was not long-term commitments for children but return to their families when conditions stabilized.[2] The sisters took care of all the girls, and any boys under ten years of age; the brothers had charge of the older boys. Unlike many similar institutions, the Protectory provided training in skills that would allow its charges to make a living upon leaving. It was felt that vocational studies should not be postponed until mature years, but should be commenced early, so as to accustom the boy to what may afterwards prove to be the means of earning his own livelihood when he shall have left the Protectory. The boys learned printing in all its branches, photography, tailoring, shoemaking, laundry work, industrial and ornamental drawing, sign-painting, blacksmithing, plumbing, carpentry, bricklaying, stone-work, baking in its different branches, and in practical knowledge of boilers, engines, dynamos and electric wiring.[6] The girls learned to embroider, cook and make gloves, typewriting, and stenography.

The students in the occupational training classes were paid, given individual accounts, and encouraged to save their earnings. Graduates of the Printing House found work at New York newspapers as compositors and pressmen. All clothing was made on site in the Tailoring Department. "The boys handled all maintenance work on the property including painting, carpentry, masonry, bricklaying, and electrical work.[2] The boys from different trades would make up sports teams to compete with one another. In 1920, the Lincoln Giants, a professional baseball team from Harlem moved from their old home park, Olympic Field (at Fifth Avenue and 136th Street), to the Catholic Protectory Oval in the Bronx, playing to a rapt crowd of fans. The Protectory Band played “Garry Owen” at Theodore Roosevelt's 1904 presidential inauguration.

St. Philip's Home[edit]

St. Philip's Home was opened in 1902 at 417 Broome Street in Manhattan as transitional housing for boys who had "aged out" of the Protectory home. The Protectory's main office was at 415 Broome Street. It was run by the Christian Brothers and could accommodate about 100 young men. There former students were assisted with job placement and housing for those who were unemployed or homeless.[7] Some would visit on weekends to use the library or recreational facilities. According to the 1910 Report of Benevolent Institutions, young African-American men numbered among the 100 residents.[8]

Lincolndale Agricultural School[edit]

At the Lincoln Agricultural School, a subsidiary institution, the boys also receive a training in dairy-farming and other agriculture.

In 1938, due to high overhead and declining residents with other resources and options available, the Girls' Department was closed and the Boys' relocated to the Lincolndale facility. The 129-acre main campus was sold to Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, which constructed the Parkchester planned-housing development on the site.

Other protectories[edit]

View of St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys c. early 1900s
  • St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys was opened in Baltimore City in 1866 by the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The school served as both an orphanage and boarding school for boys, teaching them life and labor skills. At the time, Archbishop Martin Spalding pointed out the need for such a school, and enlisted the aid of the Xaverian Brothers to assist in running the school for the Archdiocese. As attendance at the school grew, the large original granite Victorian building was constructed and in use by 1868.[13] Babe Ruth was a resident for a number of years and would later return to visit the boys, both here and at the New York Protectory.

Similar institutions were: in the United States, at Arlington, New Jersey (Diocese of Newark); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Utica, New York (Diocese of Syracuse). In Canada, 4 in the Archdiocese of Montreal. In England: for boys, at Walthamstow, Essex; Farnworth, Lancashire; Birkdale, Lancashire and Market Weighton, Yorkshire and for girls, at Bristol, Gloucestershire and Liverpool, Lancashire. In Scotland, at Parkhead, Glasgow. In Ireland: for boys, at Glencree, Co. Wicklow, and Philipstown, King's Co.; for girls, at Drumcondra, Co. Dublin.


  1. ^ a b De Lacy, William. "Protectories." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 15 August 2019Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ a b c Munch, Janet Butler. "At Home in the Bronx: Children at the New York Catholic Protectory 1865-1938". The Bronx County Historical Society Journal. 52, 1/2 (Spring, 2015): 30-48
  3. ^ "Ives Family Papers". Archived from the original on 2010-04-19. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
  4. ^ a b "New York Catholic Protectory", The Catholic Church in the United States of America, Catholic Editing Company, 1914, p. 60Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ "The Catholic Protectory, Parkchester", Bronx Historical Society
  6. ^ Comfort, Randall, History of the Bronx Borough, Chapter XXXV, North Side News, 1906Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ "New York Catholic Protectory", Annual Report of the State Board of Charities of the State of New York, Weed, Parsons and Company, 1912, p. 444
  8. ^ Benevolent Institutions: 1910, U.S. Bureau of the Census, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1913, p. 128
  9. ^ "Thomas A. Becker", The Catholic Church in the United States of America, Catholic editing Company, 1914, p. 216Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  10. ^ Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, Vol. 15, p. 136Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  11. ^ Brachear, Manya A., "Chicago's first archbishop was 'good prelate, good man'", Chicago Tribune, May 19, 2013
  12. ^ Martin, Michelle, "Walking the walk, lighting the way: Mercy Home for Boys and Girls celebrates 125th anniversary", Chicago Catholic, August 12, 2012
  13. ^ Scharf, John (1881). History of Baltimore City and County. L.H. Everts. pp. 937–938. Retrieved January 11, 2011. st mary's industrial school.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Protectories". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

External links[edit]