Friday, March 11, 2011

St. Joseph's Home - Peekskill, NY - Nunn Children

I have noticed a number of views on the blogs I did regarding St. Joseph’s Home in Peekskill, New York, so I thought I would expand on that information and add more photos.

In June of 1900 the Nunn family, who lived at 2030 First Avenue, New York, was struggling. Katherine had just given birth to her eleventh child, Charles Casper, born in May 1900. Her husband, Joseph, died in early June 1900. Thirteen-year-old Elizabeth was left to care for her siblings while attending to her father’s business. It was a losing battle. On June 12, 1900 the City of New York’s Department of Public Charities arrived at 2030 First Avenue and took the children, with the exception of Elizabeth and infant Charles Casper. The children were placed with the Sisters of the 3rd Order of St. Francis St. Joseph’s Home in Peekskill, New York. Elizabeth might have stayed with the Lewis family who lived in the same building, and who also had a large family. Baby Charles died in September of that year. The mother, Katherine, was admitted to the Manhattan State Hospital on June 26, 1900 for dementia. She died there seventeen years later on May 12, 1917 of Typhoid Fever. It is possible Katherine is buried on Hart’s Island, NY.

“Charity is the very center of Catholicism,” states the dissertation of Sister M. Jane Thomas Gorman FMSC.[1] During the mid-1800s, the Catholic Church reacted to the numbers of children throughout the country that no longer had family support. Catholic children were being placed in non-Catholic institutions, which threatened the core of their Catholic heritage.

St. Joseph's Home, Peekskill, NY
November 2010

In 1879 the New York Department of Public Welfare requested the Franciscan Missionary Sisters accept orphans at their property located in Peekskill, NY on the banks of the Hudson River; St. Joseph’s Home was born. The home took in destitute or orphaned children ages two to sixteen. 
On July 24, 1880 the first boy was admitted, and by 1899 St. Joseph’s was like a miniature city housing 1100 residents. The school offered traditional education courses, technical training, sewing, household arts, shoemaking, carpentry, baking and gardening. Travis Point, on the Hudson, provided bathing accommodations.  For chores done, the children received a daily salary of 12 cents; one cent fine for not doing their lessons was imposed. “St. Joseph’s was one of the first institutional schools to be placed under the New York State Regents.”[2]

St. Joseph Dormitory
In 1932, while chaplain at St. Joseph’s Home, Fr. Michael McGuire wrote the New Baltimore Catechism that was published in 1942.

Chapel at St. Joseph's Home, Peekskill, NY
November 2010
The school celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1979; an arson fire destroyed the buildings and the school was taken down in January 1980. 

In 1904 the home housed a total of 1,009 children, 711 of which were from New York City. By 1905, residents numbered 1,056, with 787 from New York City. The 1905 New York Census for the Fifth Election District Peekskill, NY St. Joseph’s Home shows the Nunn children in residence:

Emma Nunn   age 6
Emilie Nunn   age 8
Joseph Nunn  age 9
Katie Nunn    age 12
George Nunn  age 13

One hundred ten years separate me from when my grandfather walked these grounds of St. Joseph’s Home. Visiting there provided me with a better understanding of his growing up years. And if he only knew – maybe he does – that I found him a century later.
St. Joseph's Home - All Saints Day 2010

[1] Gorman, Sr. M. Jane Thomas, Fordham University Dissertation by. Tertiary Franciscan Missionary Sisters Sacred Heart, 1946 on St. Joseph’s Home, Peekskill, NY, April 15, 1946. Report at Westchester County Archives.
[2] Gorman, Sr. M. Jane Thomas, Fordham University Dissertation. 


  1. In the late 60s I was a volunteer for a specific child at the Saint Joseph's orphanage and picked her up every weekend to take her places. When I brought her back on Sunday nights we had to stop at the infirmary for her to take her meds. She would down the pills with water and turn to me and say, "There, now they can handle me!"

    Had to be truth to that because I would have her for 2 1/2 days without any drugs and she was fine. She begged me to adopt her so I went to see the nuns and told them I would like to adopt her. The nuns told me that she and her sisters were being adopted by a family who was taking all of them.

    Years later I found she was never adopted and instead was in Grasslands Psychiatric Hospital. I visited her there for a while and then life took me other places. She was 16 years old at the time she was in the hospital.

    Do you have a photo of the orphanage before it burned down? Or is it that building in the 2nd photo here, which looks familiar to me?

    Enjoyed reading your story.

    1. HI Portable Graffiti, What was her name maybe she's in our Alumni group on Yahoo! My name is Carmen Velez. I lived in St Joseph's Home from 1967-1978& was there the day it closed because my graduating class in Peekskill HS had its commencement exercises on that day. I run an email group of St Joseph's Alumni my age but we also have 2 Yahoo!Groups websites. One StJosephPeekskill & the other Kennedy_Alumni_Association. Only the school was burnt down but the land was sold & the Church, Priest's home, front office building & girls buildings are still there. it's now called Mount St Francis. We just had a Reunion/Retirement fundraiser for the Sisters on April 28, 2012 & will have one in Pelham Bay Park, Bx, NY on Aug 11@12pm, if you want to join us. Hit me up on Facebook or brother, Fran or Francisco which may be easier to find. He will get us connected. He can help you too. We Welcome all our brothers & sisters from St Joe's no matter what year they were there. We share a unique experience & have people of all ages at our Reunions. I search for our lost bros & Srs on Facebook & other media so that they know that they are loved & have another family that understands them & welcomes them with open arms. If you know anyone that worked in St Joe's or took any of the kids into their homes please let them know about our Reunion & we hope to hear from you soon. May God Bless you & thank you for being there for our Sister. I also had a family that would pick me up on weekends, The Kowalski's, they were a saving grace to me while I was in St Joe's. I Thank God for The Sisters that raised us & for all the people that were our Angels throughout our lives. You all made a difference. I'm sure that the girl you cared for has kept your love in her soul throughout her life. She hasn't forgotten you & I hope that you will be reunited one day soon. I just found 5 of our bros & sisters in the past year so don't give up. I forgot to mention that we have a lot of photos of St Joseph's before it was torn down, thanks to my brother, Fran & that I always cherished pictures & kept them in a safe place. We got that from our parents. Love & Blessings, a St Joseph's Homie, Carmen M Velez

    2. Carmen: Thank you for all the information on St. Joseph's Home and your alumni efforts. You are doing great work. If you don't mind, I would like to post some of your information on another blog. When I look at my blog stats, the ones I did on St. Joseph's Home consistently have the most views. There are a lot of folks out there interested in the home.

  2. There are at least two large dorm-like buildings still standing. Plus the chapel. Surrounding these building are all new high-end condominiums. But there was enough left that I could capture my grandfather's time there.

    I do have a newspaper photo of the fire, and maybe some other buildings, but as luck would have it, we are packing to move, and those family files are now in a box somewhere. When I do find them again, I will blog about it.

    Thank you for sharing your experience, as sad as it turned out. I know there are many people out there interested in St. Joseph's Home as those blogs consistently get the most views.

  3. Wow! I'm so glad that I have found this site. I was an orphan there in 1974-1978. I remember sister Nancy, Francis and Mary. My counselor were Jerry Woods, Tony, Big Blue as we would call him and Bob Newman. I remember a lady called Barbra that drove a white corvette and I think her parents work at the office. I only recall Oman but cant remember his wife's name. I have my greatest memories there. I would love to get a hold of anyone that was in contact with me at the time. Some of the boys were, Edwin Gonzalez, Sammy Perez, David White, Alfredo and Dwayne. I do have 2 pictures from back in the seventies. Anyone that remembers me and would like to talk you can reach me at
    Looking forward to re-connecting with old family friends.

  4. I hope you are able to connect with some of your friends. I am glad you enjoyed the posting. It was incredible to be where my grandfather and his siblings were raised. Good Luck!

  5. Who should I contact to get information about my grandfather (James Scullen) who lived there in the 20s. I am trying to confirm my great grandmother's name. Thanks.

  6. The contact information for the Franciscan Sisters is:
    250 South Street
    Peekskill, NY 10566

    914 737 3373

  7. Just happened upon the Topix Website for St. Joe's in Peekskill. I have some great memories from there. I was with the Capuchin Franciscan friars from Garrison. Our "in service" training brought us every week to St. Joe's to work with the children. I loved the work tremendously. I was with the girls group -- age range about 8-10. That was in the late 1960s. Sr. Bernard (Joan Riley) and Sr. Theodora (Lois Sabarese) were the group "mothers." I believe we were the ones who introduced the folk Mass there. I know I used to play the guitar for them. Other friars were Fr. Alan Wilson and Fr. Francis Kline who also spent a lot of time at St. Joe's. Francis was a good friend of Sr. Marita Paul.

    I recall Kathy and Michael Brown, who were there at the time. I befriended them and used to take them on outings with some friends of mine in Mohawk, NY, who kind of played mother and father to Kathy and Michael. We even got to take the kids on vacation to Canada (Montreal/Quebec) once. Don't know whatever happened to Kathy and Michael. I think of them often, and so do the friends in Mohawk. My name is Fr. Peter Wright. Email is

  8. James: Thank you for your wonderful memories of St. Joseph's Home. I have had mixed reviews about conditions there, and I suspect it depended on the staffing and caregivers of the time. I think my grandfather and his siblings were treated well, as my grandfather was a gentle, kind, loving soul. And children learn what they live.


  9. My mom, Helen Morrissey and several of her siblings grew up in St. Josephs in Peekskill in the 40s. Anyone out there that remembers her please contact me via this website.

  10. Dear Mary, My name is Fran Velez and I am Carmen's brother. I was there from October 1967 until September of 1975. That was when my wrestling coach Lawrence Cook and his wife became my foster parents during my senior year. As Carmen stated to you in the message she posted on your blog, I have many photos that I took since I became interested in photography at a young age and took countless photos of St. Joseph's since the early '70's and various times I visited the campus thoughout my life. I will be at the Franciscan Sister's Spring Festival this year on Saturday, 23 April. Would so much like to meet you and share experiences with you. Maybe we could do a video documentary. Think about it. By the way, my wife gave me a photo digitizer that I can covert slides and negatives. Would you like me to send you photos when I'm done? Let me know. My email address is Carmen is somehow a magnet for meeting former kids from St. Joseph's and due to her vast contacts, reunited many family members that lost contact with each other. For some, it was decades. I want to thank you for blog for it opens another avenue for former kids, weekend foster family volunteers, staff members and family members to reconnect and communicate. I will post your blog site on my FB wall.

  11. Fran: I sent you a note from my email. Thank you so much for contacting me. As I mentioned to you in my email, my posts on St. Joseph's Home are consistently the most viewed. I'm so glad Carman is able to meet with former residents and able to connect then with family members. That truly is a gift.

    Would love to have some photos to share.

  12. Fran sent an email regarding the availability of a microfiche reader since the Sister's is broken. I responded to him via email, but then thought I should also share this response on the blog.

    Fran: In November 2012 I wrote to Fr. Higgins, Pastor of the Church of Assumption, 131 Union Avenue in Peekskill, NY requesting his assistance and support in making the records of St. Joseph's Home available to family researchers. I had also connected with the Field Library reference librarian, Kim Stucko, who said she might have a volunteer available to provide support for requests (There really aren't that many).

    Fr. Higgins wrote back in December saying he supported the use of volunteers from the Field Library and their access to the home's archives.

    Sounds like you and Carmen are a going concern, so with this information, maybe while there you can make sure this connection between the Sisters and the Library is in place. With that connection, film needing microfiche could be read and monitored at the library. Maybe set up a system where a request is made in advance so the film can be with the reference librarian, and watched carefully as it is used. In turn, whoever answers the phone at the home regarding requests, can just refer the caller to the Field Library Reference Desk.

    So, let me know how this all goes. And would LOVE to know how the reunion goes and getting some photos.

  13. Hi my mother was at the home in 1945-1950, we were just speaking about how she would like to visit. My mom's name is Carmen Iris Torres at the time, she has alot of fond memories n any inf. would be helpful interested if facility is still functioning?

  14. Cynthia: The school is no longer functioning. It ended in 1979 with a fire. Some of the buildings remain - see photos on blog - and the sisters live there. If you can respond to Fran Velez in one of the comments above, he can tell you about the alumni group they have gotten together. Maybe your mom can connect through them.