Howard Center helps restore graves of 1800s Burlington children – Burlington Free Press


Gravestones of children who passed away more than 100 years ago are being restored so their memory will endure for years to come.
A dozen volunteers from the Howard Center and the Vermont Old Cemetery Association plan to restore and reset close to 50 gravestone markers at Lakeview Cemetery in Burlington on Saturday, Sept. 10. The plots they will attend belong to children who in the late 1800s were residents of the Home for Destitute Children, once an orphanage and predecessor to the Howard Center.
“Our members are so pleased to be able to work with Howard Center to complete this restoration,” said Tom Griffin, president of the Vermont Old Cemetery Association, in a statement. “It’s always an honor to do this work and especially meaningful to revitalize children’s memorials.”
The Home for Destitute Children and its Howard Center connection can be traced back to the mid-to-late 1800s when they were separate entities, both with a vision to provide help to the vulnerable.
The University of Vermont documented the home’s history, including creating a timeline of the home, which operated from 1865 until 1941. A log book was also transcribed and includes details of 1,700 children who were housed there from 1899 until it closed.
The Home for Destitute Children was established initially to house children who were orphaned during the Civil War. In its first year it housed 12 girls. The following year the organization bought the U.S. Marine Hospital, expanding its reach to provide housing to any area child in need. The new location could house 35 children at a time. Seven years in, it had received 170 children and placed 79 in homes among families. In that time it had three locations in Burlington: 447 Main Street, a place on Winooski Avenue and then made its permanent home at Shelburne Road and Home Avenue, the latter road most likely named for the home itself.
A fire that sparked in the attic burned the home to the ground in 1893, and it wasn’t until four years later that enough funds were raised to build a new two-story brick home. In 1922, reportedly 72 children lived in there, indicating the structure had been expanded from what was originally built as a nursery. Over the years the home endured another fire that was contained to the laundry room and a whooping cough epidemic in 1925 that infected 35 babies and young children.
In 1945 the home was renamed The Children’s Home to reflect a shift in mission. The home was changing from a place that provided long-term care and housing to a treatment-oriented center serving children with special needs. The name changed again in 1966 to the Josephine B. Baird Children’s Center as it began to meet the needs of children considered emotionally disturbed.
Concurrently, another relief organization was growing and would ultimately become part of the home’s story. The Ladies Aid Society, which started in 1873, became the Howard Relief Society and was the progenitor to the Howard Center, as it is known today. In 1966, the Howard Family Service Center became the community mental health agency for Chittenden and southern Grand Isle counties.
By 1982, the Baird Center, as the home was now called, was a day treatment facility that also provided home-based services. Meanwhile, Champlain Drug and Alcohol Services was created that same year to provide substance use treatment and prevention services.
In 1994, the three organizations — the Baird Center for Children and Families, the Howard Center and Champlain Drug and Alcohol Services — united under one name to provide counseling and support programs for the community.
Today, the Howard Center provides community-based mental health, substance use, and developmental services across Chittenden and other Vermont counties.
Philanthropist Louisa Howard, who died in 1886, has been attributed with providing the tombstones for the children who died at the home.
“The Home for Destitute Children is an important part of Howard Center’s history and our shared Vermont history and we are so pleased to have the opportunity to honor the children’s memory in this way,” said Howard Center CEO Bob Bick about the gravestone restoration.
Contact reporter April Barton at [email protected] or 802-660-1854. Follow her on Twitter @aprildbarton.

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