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Kearns – St. Ann’s Orphanage

Kearns – St. Ann’s School

This eclectic Chateauesque style building was constructed in 1899 by the Roman Catholic church. It was designed by Carl M. Neuhausen, architect of the Thomas Kearns Mansion and the Cathedral of the Madeleine, both located on South Temple Street. Bishop Lawrence Scanlan of the newly formed Salt Lake City Diocese began acquiring land for the orphanage but encountered financial problems. Jennie Judge Kearns, wife of mining magnate and U.S. Senator Thomas Kearns, donated $55,000 to purchase the land and cover the entire cost of construction.

The Kearns-St. Ann’s Orphanage, operated by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, served the social, religious, and educational needs of many children for over fifty years. The children shared responsibility in the total operation of the facility, with the exception of accounts and records. The orphanage was converted to a parochial school in 1954, officially known as St. Ann’s School, and had an initial enrollment of 240 students from kindergarten to fourth grade. The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word assumed leadership of the school at that time. Each year thereafter an additional grade was added until all eight grades were included in the school. In anticipation of the school’s restoration in the 1990s and to symbolize its link with the past, it was renamed Kearns-St. Ann School.

To the Sisters of the Holy Cross whose devotion to St. Ann’s inspired in little children the one and only hope. – Placed here by the descendants of the late Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns

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Located at 430 East 2100 South in South Salt Lake City, Utah and added to the National Historic Register (#80003925) on October 3, 1980.

The Kearns-St. Ann’s orphanage is a two and a half story brick structure designed by Carl M. Neuhausen, the architect of the Kearns Mansion and the Cathedral of the Madeleine on South Temple. St. Ann’s in its modest decorative elements alluded to Renaissance and Mannerist detailing, as do both the much more elaborate Kearns Mansion and Neuhausen’s own house on First South. Neuhausen’s eclectic style was rare in Utah, and the few buildings by other designers lack Neuhausen1 s skillful use of the Chatesque manner. The orphanage represents the important educational and religious contributions to Utah society of Bishop Lawrence Scanlan and Thomas and Jennie Kearns.

Money for the construction of the school was made available to Bishop Lawrence Scanlan from Mrs. Thomas Kearns. Scanlan had acquired a parcel of land near Eleventh South, however, after one payment he had exhausted the funds. Kearns gave the church $55,000, which was enough to purchase the land and cover all building costs. Two thousand people witnessed the placement of the cornerstone on August 27, 1890.

St. Ann’s brought together several of the most influential Catholics in Utah. Thomas Kearns, the mining magnate, and his wife Jennie changed the social landscape by creating new educational and religious institutions in Utah. Bishop Scanlan was the first Bishop of the newly formed Salt Lake City Diocese (Utah and Nevada). He had served as a missionary in the area since the 1870s, and recognized the need of support institutions to aid the Catholic missionary effort.

The social order found at the orphanage was unique among the many forms of socialism in Utah during the early history of Utah. The children at the orphanage were to share in the total operation of the facility, except the handling of accounts and records. The Sisters of the Holy Cross charged no admittance fee to the parent or guardian .although those who could afford something often paid a monthly fee. After the tragic coal mine explosion at Scofield, Utah on May 1, 1900, the orphanage offered its help to assist children left orphans by the blast. The orphanage served the needy for fifty-two years before it was converted into a school.

Funding for Saint Ann’s has come from a number of sources. First of course was the money from the Kearns Foundation which later withdrew its support. In 1902 Patrick Phelm left his estate, valued at $76,000, to the school. In 1979 the school was still operating from the Phelm estate. Of course the parish has always tried to assist the school and the school has provided its facilities to the Catholic and non-Catholic community as well.

In 1953 Sister Mary McElligott, superior, and two other sisters from Brownsville, Texas, began direction at Saint Ann’s. On September 19, 1954, Kearns-St. Ann’s Orphanage was converted into a parochial school, officially known as St. Ann’s School. The name “Kearns” was dropped and removed from the exterior façade. Shortly afterwards the Kearns family announced they would no longer render financial assistance to the school and removed most of the schools elegant furnishings. The new order of sisters now in charge at the school began the change outlined in the physical description. The lavish abundance of trees, both evergreen and deciduous, that surrounded the school were cut down as was the orchard. These were replaced with lawns and playing fields.

Enrollment has gradually increased from 168 in 1900. When the orphanage was converted into a parochial school in 1954 it enrolled 240 students from Kindergarten to Fourth Grade. By 1966 that number had grown to 460 pupils through eight grades. The enrollment has now stabilized.

In 1955 money became available for the construction of a convent west of the school. Architect B. Bruce Folsom was chosen to design the convent that can house 11 sisters. Twelve years later (1967) a sharply contrasting St. Ann’s parish church with seating for 750 people, was built east of the school. The architect was William H. Louis.