History of ECH
In 1858, Reverend Louis Nollau began what was to become an enduring mission. He opened the basement of his church, St. Peter’s Evangelical Church as shelter to a young boy named Henry Sam, and so the German Protestant Orphans Home began. Many other children followed, due to the recurrent outbreaks of cholera, a fatal disease at the time. This all important orphanage later became ECH and has stood the test of time for over 150 years.
Incorporated in 1861, the then German Protestant Orphan’s Home operated in the parsonage at St. Peter’s Evangelical Church for the next two years. As more children arrived, these quarters became too small, so the orphanage moved to a larger home on Carr Street in downtown St. Louis.
Following a fire in 1863, Rev. Nollau and the Board of Directors felt that the children needed a place in the country where they could breathe the clean air and learn a trade. They purchased a 65-acre farm on the St. Charles Rock Road for $23,500. The farm was on one of the highest points of St. Louis County and provided a substantial mansion, outbuildings, faming fields, as well as over 1,000 fruit bearing trees.
In the fall of 1866, 60 boys and girls moved to the “country.” It was a half-day’s ride from the city by farm wagon.
By 1874, the number of children reached 250 and the Board of Directors had to make the decision to turn some children away. The “family” had outgrown its current home. So, to accommodate everyone, that fall, the original mansion was rebuilt to house all the children, staff and a school on the grounds.
Three years later, in 1877, during a blizzard, this newly re-modeled building caught fire. The children were temporarily moved to other orphanages in the area. Just eleven months after the blaze, a new home was built on the existing foundation and dedicated in November 1877.
The German Protestant Orphan’s Home continued to thrive. Every transaction, every communication was done in German. In 1917, after World War I, the Board decided that all religious instruction, education, communication and all publications should be done in English. Then in September 1918, all other transactions were changed to English.
During the depression, the Home was able to keep doors open by selling much of the property, down to our existing 34 acres.
On September 18, 1945, The Board voted to rename the German Protestant Orphan’s Home to Evangelical Children's Home. 1946 saw the change in care from an orphanage to a residential treatment facility for children from “broken homes.” Following World War II, more and more children were being placed in Foster Care. The emerging role of ECH, in some cases, became that of a center for the emotionally damaged child.
As the times changed, ECH managed to stay a leader in the field by continuing to be innovative in the care of the children served. During the mid 1950’s, six traditional ranch houses were built to replace the dormitory style living quarters, a revolutionary decision during the times. These houses continue to be home today to 56 children in our care.
In the 1960’s the first group home was opened. In 1965, the Day Care Center began to help mothers who might otherwise be unable to care for their child.
In 1978, following a study in the Kansas City area, it was decided to open a girls unit as a branch of ECH.
During the 1980s our programs continued to be innovative and evolve to meet the needs of our changing society. The on-grounds school was reinstated for youth who were having difficulties in the community schools; a program, called Steppingstone, for older teens was created; The Family and Personal Counseling Center began; and the first day treatment children were accepted on campus.
Our Kansas City campus has also evolved through the years, accepting both young men and women. Then in 1997, the Kansas City program changed to Steppingstone, accepting only older teens who found themselves homeless or ready to phase out of the welfare system, an underserved population in the area. The idea - to teach these young men and women independence and how to be successful.
In the last 10 years, we have continued to expand our services with an entire array of programs that work with children and families in their own communities, while maintaining our residential treatment program on our historic Rock Road campus. The goal of these community support programs is designed to assist families early in their children’s lives to prevent future serious problems. Our community based services include: The Family Reunification Services, Family Focused Residential Services, Intensive In-Home Services and Foster Care Management. Family Reunification Services provides intensive, in-home services to families reunifying with their children. The Family Focused Residential Services allows a broad range of services designed to help families successfully reunite following placement. Intensive In-Home Services provides a broad range of services designed to keep families together. Family Case Management Services provides foster care services through a contract with the State of Missouri.
For the past 150 years, ECH has remained true to the mission set forth by Rev. Nollau. We have continued to look after the welfare of the children and families who need it the most. Our rich and colorful history has built the foundation we will use to be successful for the next 150 years.