St. Anthony's: A Look at Where it All Began

Throughout the year, we will be sharing pieces of history about the work of Catholic Charities in the past century.  Today, we’re taking a look at one of the first ministries of Catholic Charities – the care for orphans at St. Anthony’s Orphanage.  This work began years earlier under the skillful direction of the Grey Nuns.

St. Anthony’s Orphanage began as a division of St. Vincent Hospital.  In the early years of Toledo, the city was given the nickname “The Graveyard of the United States” due to constant flooding and disease.  In 1855, the Miami-Erie Canal (now known as Anthony Wayne Trail) flooded and caused a large outbreak of malaria and cholera in Toledo.  A lot people were sick, and there was a growing number of orphans who lost their parents due to illness.  In the fall of 1855, the Grey Nuns of Montreal opened the doors of St. Vincent Asylum and Hospital.  On November 12, 1855, they received their first orphans.

On January 1, 1901, the orphanage was separated from the hospital.  A new building on Cherry Street was constructed and dedicated on October 27, 1907.  That year, the name was changed to St. Anthony’s Orphanage.

St. Anthony's Orphanage When Catholic Charities was established in 1914, St. Anthony’s was added to organization to help continue the mission of social welfare in the Diocese.  The first location of the Catholic Charities offices was in the building of St. Anthony’s Orphanage on Cherry Street.

children-on-st-anthony-bus In later years the name of the orphanage was changed to St. Anthony Villa after the Sisters of St. Francis in Tiffin took over the operation in the 1950’s.  The orphanage continued to be a member agency of Catholic Charities until the 1980s.

Throughout the years, St. Anthony’s was a large part of Catholic Charities and spun off several programs to further assist children throughout the Diocese including foster care and adoption programs.  Camp Lady of the Lake was created for the children of St. Anthony’s as a summer camp program.

swimming-pool-at-st-anthony Recreation included ample indoor and outdoor recreational facilities such as:a swimming pool, a well-equipped gym and playgrounds.  Local organizations and business men provided tickets and transportation to seasonal activities.

The children attended local public and private schools, and some were placed in special education classes.  The villa also provided Head Start for the pre-school children.

Do you or a loved one have memories of living at St. Anthony’s Orphanage during the time it was operated by Catholic Charities?  Please send memories to Amber Stargell at

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Our Mission

Catholic Charities makes real the love that God has for each individual person regardless of their faith or background by serving the poor, speaking for and assisting the neglected and forgotten, respecting and promoting life from beginning to end and nurturing and supporting individuals and families.