Lycoming County Women's History Project



Home for the Friendless. Campbell Street, Williamsport (1940s?)

It was through the efforts of a small group of women representing ten churches that the forerunner of the Williamsport Home was founded on November 18, 1872. It was first given the name of The Women's Christian Association of Williamsport and was located on Pine Street in Williamsport. It soon became The Home for the Friendless and provided for "the temporal, moral, and religious welfare of homeless and friendless women and children, especially aged women."

According to John F. Meginness, in his History of Lycoming County, 1892.

"The Home for the Friendless, a philanthropic institution, was founded by the ladies of Williamsport in 1872. It affords a home for aged and infirm ladies, as well as children and infants. The building is a neat brick structure and cost $10,322.62. It has accommodations for fifty persons. The State aided it with appropriations amounting to $5,000, but it has to look largely to the liberality and charity of the citizens for maintenance. The Home is governed by a lady superintendent under the direction of a board of lady directors. It has been well managed from the beginning and has done much good."

Elderly women had to be over 65 years of age and have no other means of support. An initial sum of money - $500 in 1899 - was due upon acceptance and money was also requested of each to pay for future funeral expenses.

Children were admitted to the Home for the Friendless for a limited period of time. Although age guidelines changed over the years, children had to have either only one or no parents. The parent or guardian was to pay for board and shoes when they were able. Often the children returned to their families when their family situation stabilized.

After an extensive fund raising drive, the board and members were able to raise enough money to erect a new and larger building. Residents moved into their new home on Campbell Street in January 1876. The building still stands and is in use as physicians' offices.

In 1940, the Home for the Friendless began to phase out providing care for children and its name was changed to the Williamsport Home. When the last child left the Home, the organization-begun by ten women and with the support of the community - had cared for hundreds and hundreds of needy children over a period of almost 80 years.

In 1975, the Williamsport Home moved to its present location at 1900 Ravine Road. The Home continues to serve elderly women - and men - and to be managed by an all-female board of directors.

The Home for the Friendless collection consists of record books, photographs, newspaper clippings, correspondence, and other ephemera. The bound record books cover the years from the 1870s through the 1940s. They contain board minutes, details of conditions of acceptance signed with "inmates" before they entered the Home, and lists of residents and applicants. These materials offer a glimpse into the lives of those children whose parents could no longer support them and elderly women without means. The logbooks also provide insight into the lives of the generally wealthy women who gave of their time, energy, and money to guide the institution and offer insight into the lives of the women who were employed by the Home. Other record books have detailed lists of donors and donations to the Home, including donations of money, food, services, and goods. In November 1906, as the Home was preparing for its annual Thanksgiving dinner, a list of goods provided by members of the community was prepared, it can be found here. The entire List of Donations from 1906-1914 is available here.

Scrapbooks document the Home history through printed material and newspaper clippings. Want to know more about the Home for the Friendless? Type "Friendless" in the search box below to find source material in the Lycoming County Women's History database.

See photographs and listen to stories from The Home for the Friendless here. This website was developed by students in Professor Lynn Estomin's Art 430 class at Lycoming College in the fall of 2011.