Thornwell Orphanage opened in Clinton, South Carolina on October 1, 1875, to ten children orphaned by the American Civil War. It was founded by Reverend William Plumer Jacobs and named for noted theologian James Henley Thornwell. Dr. Jacobs went on to found Presbyterian College and his son Thornwell Jacobs revitalized Oglethorpe University.
Thornwell Orphanage came to be when a ten-year-old, Willie Anderson, gave Dr. Jacobs fifty cents to "build your orphanage." Dr. Jacobs built the orphanage with the help of his church and presided over the orphanage until his death in 1917.
Thornwell Home for Children, once known as Thornwell Home and School for Children (formerly Thornwell Orphanage), operates 12 residential cottages with 6-8 children per home. It has school buildings, an infirmary, office facilities, recreational facilities (including a swimming pool, gymnasium, ballfields and tennis courts), a museum, a dining hall, a Church and Sunday-school building (Hartness-Thornwell Memorial Presbyterian Church), a farm (Lushacres Farm) and various maintenance facilities. Thornwell is supported by the Presbyterian Church (USA) Synod of the South Atlantic, congregations within the Synod and without, and private donations.
Most of the buildings are made of granite or with granite facings and the campus is notably attractive. Many of the buildings are part of the Thornwell-Presbyterian College Historic District which comprises the historic cores of Presbyterian College and the Thornwell Home and School for Children, together with the adjacent residential streets. The Thornwell campus is unified by consistency of materials (granite stone) and by scale. The Thornwell-Presbyterian College Historic District was listed in the National Register March 5, 1982.
Thornwell has some interesting attributes:
- It is one of the earliest American child-care facilities that used "cottages" rather than dormitories to house children.
- Cyrus McCormick, the inventor of the reaper, supported Thornwell and there was once a "McCormick Cottage" on the campus.
- Thornwell children themselves dug the campus swimming pool.
Thornwell is located in downtown Clinton, on South Broad Street and across the street from Presbyterian College.
Thornwell School was shut down in May 2007 due to insufficient funding, however the home remains open.