In 1790 the Charleston City Council passed an ordinance establishing an orphanage, the Charleston Orphan House “for the purpose of supporting and educating poor orphan children.” At first, City Council identified homes and families across the city to house the community’s orphans.
It was not until October 18, 1794, that a house located on the corner of Calhoun and St. Phillip Streets was opened and approximately 115 children moved in.
The home not only housed the city’s children but also included a school, a chapel where several religions held services and programs that offered apprenticeships to the house’s residents.
In 1863 at the outset of the Civil War, the children were temporarily evacuated to a women’s seminary in Orangeburg to keep them safe. They would move back into the home on Calhoun Street just over two years later.
Charleston is no stranger to natural disasters as its residents are reminded each hurricane season, but an earthquake in the fall of 1886 leveled much of the city. While the Charleston Orphan House did suffer some damage, the children were able to sleep in tents on the grounds for only five days before repairs were made and life was back to its usual routine at the house.
In November 1910, the Charleston Orphan House welcomed President William Howard Taft to Charleston. During this time, the orphanage was lauded as one of the nation’s premier homes and schools for children. The home’s library alone boasted a collection of over 5,600 books.
Over the years, there have been many distinguished guests at the Charleston Orphan House, including President George Washington, Generals Pierre de Beauregard and Robert E. Lee, as well as Presidents James Monroe and Grover Cleveland.
In 1928 a stained glass window depicting Jesus blessing the children was gifted to the Charleston Orphan House in honor of one of its alumni and commissioners. The window was created in the Tiffany studios and was placed in the chapel. Later, when the home was moved to a new location in North Charleston, the window was also relocated to the administrative building and can be seen today in the entryway.
During this same year, the Charleston Orphan House closed its school on campus and sent the children to a private school in downtown Charleston.
In 1951 almost 151 years after the house on Calhoun Street was open, city commissioners decided to purchase 37 acres of land in North Charleston and move the Charleston Orphan House to a new location.
Continuing to develop, the Charleston Orphan House separated from the city and became an independent non-profit organization on June 30, 1978. At this time, the name was changed to the Oak Grove Child Care Center.
In March 1981 the Oak Grove Child Care Center merged with two other local nonprofit organizations serving children and youth in the Lowcountry. On July 17, 1981, known as “Merger Day” the organization was renamed the Carolina Youth Development Center.
In the early 1990’s Trident United Way completed a Needs Assessment that identified critical areas of focus for the community, including supporting children in crisis. In response to this work, the Give Me Shelter Committee, Berkeley County office of the Department of Social Services (DSS) and Trident United Way asked CYDC to establish a shelter in Berkeley County to serve children in crisis. In 1998 the Callen-Lacey Center for Children opened its doors, located in Moncks Corner. The center, much like CYDC’s North Charleston campus, serves children ages 0-21 in South Carolina’s child welfare system.
In 2019 CYDC completed the renovation of NuHouse, located on the North Charleston campus and opened it with a focus on providing youth ages 17-21 with the tools and resources necessary to succeed as independent adults.
In the fall of 2020, CYDC will celebrate its 230th anniversary.
CYDC’s mission is to empower and equip our community’s most vulnerable children by providing a safe environment, educational support, and career readiness, in collaboration with families and community partners.
CYDC’s vision is that all children will have loving and stable families and a nurturing community empowering them to lead successful lives.