Edgewood Celebrates 165th Year Anniversary

September 22, 2016

A Look at Our Growth Then and Now  

You can help Edgewood children and their families with a one time gift, or, set up a recurring gift to provide ongoing help all year round!


In 2016, Edgewood Center for Children and Families celebrates its 165th year of helping children, youth, and families in the Bay Area. Over the years, Edgewood has transformed from a Gold Rush era orphanage, to a leader in providing one-of-a-kind mental health programs and services that help transform the lives of thousands of abused, neglected, and traumatized youth and families in the Bay Area. 

When Edgewood was founded in 1851, San Francisco was a very different city. You could rent a corner of a room for $1.50 a night and could sit down for an extravagant meal for only $2. 

But the cost of living is not the only big change since Edgewood first opened its doors to a small group of orphaned children; the mental health field has also undergone radical transformations over the last century and a half. 

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, there was little to no distinction between children with medical conditions, intellectual disabilities, behavioral issues, and emotional or psychiatric conditions. Childhood was much shorter, with youth often working at 12 years old or younger. There was little recognition of children's internal world or clear developmental stages. Children with conditions were kept in orphanages and reform schools, and those with significant mental health symptoms were kept in asylums (later to be termed state hospitals), and mingled with adults.

Today, we understand the importance of children's emotional and social development and behavioral and mental health. Having been around since 1851, we can look back at society's changing perspectives on mental and behavioral health through the lens of Edgewood’s own rich history.

Click on the links below to learn more about Edgewood's history in the community.






Click on image below to view in full scale.



 Edgewood's Mission in 1888:

“To take under its care, destitute and friendless orphan and half-orphan children, and provide them with a home, sustenance and education during the period of their dependence”

 Edgewood's Mission Today:

"Promote the behavioral health of children, youth, and families, and support a positive transition to adulthood."



 In 1888:

Wake up, clean their dormitory-style rooms, have breakfast, and attend school nearby. Cottage mothers looked after the 214 children at Edgewood, which was then located on Haight Street on a two-block piece of land purchased for $100.

Children learned how to cook, clean, and sew, and sometimes were allowed a pet dog, cat, or chicken. Unless both parents were deceased, children over ten were turned away.

 In 1960:

Now housed in our current Vicente Street location, Edgewood youth lived in one of six residential cottages with up to 20 other children. Youth went to school on campus or took the bus if attending school in the community.

After school, youth did chores like dishes, woodworking, cleaning windows, mopping stairs, or delivering food to the cottages; they earned a small allowance for this work. They also had time to play ping pong in the recreation room or make pottery on the spinning wheel. Many had one or more living parent, but for various reasons, they were unable to care for the children who came to live at Edgewood.


Following breakfast, Edgewood youth attend school in Pine or Matson campus school buildings, or in the community. On campus, our school blends traditional academics, expressive arts and recreation activities, and therapy. In the afternoons, youth play sports and participate in activities like cooking or drama clubs.

There are movie nights and other fun events in the evenings before bed. Our holistic, individualized services focus on improving behaviors and the mental and behavioral health of youth, many of whom have experienced abuse or trauma. 

Some things never change, though, and over the years Edgewood has always been committed to supporting youth. As stated in our 37th Annual Report in 1888, 

“It has been our efforts to not only provide for the wants of the body, but to direct the mind, to inculcate habits of cleanliness, order, honesty and truthfulness, and a tender regard for the feelings of others, while the mind is so impressionable”.

Here at Edgewood, we have always valued childhood as a time of great potential and crucial development.

When asked about what his time at Edgewood taught him, John, a former resident who lived here from 1959-1963 said, “It taught me how to be independent” and reflected on his impressions when he first arrived at Edgewood: “I remember the food was really good and the rooms were big. From being in the projects and I go, ‘Wow, I got my own bed’…I loved it here.” 

Edgewood has been a home and a place of healing for generations of San Francisco Bay Area youth. From its beginnings as a Gold Rush orphanage, to being a leading provider of over 25 behavioral and mental and behavioral health programs, thanks to your support, Edgewood has served the needs of vulnerable children, youth, and families and supported a positive transition to adulthood for 165 years.


Related Content: