St. Elizabeth’s Orphan Asylum opened in 1888 as the Catholic diocesan orphanage staffed by Sisters of Mercy. The Asylum also ran a summer camp for Asylum residents on Little Diamond Island that sometimes included as many as 90 children. At its peak in the 1920s, the home housed 75 to 80 girls. Earlier, boys were transferred to the St. Louis Home. By 1961, more than 5,000 children had been residents at St. Elizabeth’s.
Half of the children had come from “broken homes,” one-fifth were “half-orphaned,” seven percent were temporary residents, seven percent came from parents who both worked, and five percent were day boarders. Girls returned to relatives or to other families after they graduated from grammar school, but by the 1920s, older girls were allowed to remain and attend Cathedral High School. The orphanage closed in 1968 when only 11 girls remained. It reopened as St. Elizabeth’s Child Development Center, as a program of Catholic Charities of Maine offering day care.
After leaving St. Elizabeth’s and before the next site, note The Safford House at 93 High Street on the corner of High and Spring Streets. The building is the offices of Greater Portland Landmarks, an organization which some of the women on the trail (including Edith Koon Lansing Sills, site W15, and Fran Peabody, site W03) co-founded and were involved with.