The Home of the Friendless at 1313 Druid Hill Ave opened as a refuge for orphaned boys in 1870. An earlier institution, the Home of Friendless Vagrant Girls was established in 1854 on Pearl Steet. By 1860, it had moved to a new building on Druid Hill Ave. Five years later an adjoining lot was purchased for the construction of a boy’s home—today’s 1313 Druid Hill Ave.
The orphanage only accepted white children. Between 1870 and 1931, 200 children, half of whom were foreign born, lived here each year. By 1931, the rise of welfare programs, social services, and new approaches to childcare decreased the need for orphanages. The National Register of Historic Places states, “The size of the building, the segregation of boys and girls, the racial make-up of the institution and its urban setting are representative of orphanages prior to concepts of civil rights, gender equality and foster care. By the early twentieth century, reformers called for child care facilities in cottage settings far from urban centers.” The institution left the Marble Hill neighborhood for northwest Baltimore and eventually merged with the Woodbourne Center, which still operates today.
The federal Works Progress Administration then occupied the building until Baltimore City bought it in 1938 to create the Druid Hill Health Center. Notably, this was Baltimore’s first public health center for African Americans. Various health services were offered until 1961. The city’s Department of Housing then owned the building until 1992. It has been vacant since then.
The Marble Hill Community Association has been demanding that the city stabilize this deteriorating building for several years. In 2021, the building sustained damage from torrential rains. Falling debris became a hazard to pedestrians and traffic. In response, the city said it will stabilize the building.
*The research and writing of this article was funded by two grants: one from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority and one from the Baltimore National Heritage Area.