Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Neighborhood Fixture: Booth Maternity Group Home for Unwed Mothers

Photo by Martha Benedict

Martha Benedict, who snapped the above photo, was curious about the history of the large Mediterranean-style building on the 2600 block of Griffin Avenue that currently serves as the Lincoln Heights home of the Los Angeles Leadership Academy.  “I met a woman in Echo Park who told me it was once a refuge for wayward girls,” said Benedict. “She knew that because she was one of them and stayed there until her child was born some time in the 1960s.”

In fact, the Griffin Avenue compound once known as the Booth Maternity Group Home for Unwed Mothers served as a refuge for teenage and unwed mothers more than 90 years.

The group home started after a “wealthy benefactor” donated a house to the Salvation Army for “fallen women,” according to the Booth Memorial Center Facebook page. The Booth Memorial Center, as it was later known,  underwent a major expansion in the 1960s that allowed it to shelter 150 pregnant teens and their babies, according to the L.A. Times.  In addition to housing, the center also included a small maternity hospital and school. But as government funding dried up and more pregnant teens ended up in foster homes, the Salvation Army was forced to close the home in early 1993.

Photo by Martha Benedict

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  1. Why were only the women considered “fallen”? What were the men considered? Glad we still have some beautiful buildings from those days….and not the same outdated ideals (for the most part anyway).

  2. It’s a nice old building. I drive by it each morning. The kids do recreation on a stilt court that hangs over the hill just above. Well fenced in, but if you loose a ball, it’s gone I imagine.

    • There’s a fenced in parking lot below the basketball court and they have put in another fence below the school farm so I can’t imagine it’s that bad. Unless it lands on the roof, lol.

  3. Everyone in Lincoln Heights knows the history of that building. Kids always said “that’s where the bad girls go.”

    The girls, actually, used to go for walks in groups with their babies in strollers all the time.

    • sarah williams hoover

      I was one of those unwed mothers in 1942…..if you were there, please email me

      • Hi Sarah,

        Yes, I lived in that mausoleum in 1970 and my daughter was born at White. I was forced to surrender my child because I was so young. Please email me. I don’t see your email address.

        • Hello Sarah
          I was also there in 1970. My son was born in June. who I had the pleasure to reconnect with 32 years latter. I am writing a book about my experience. The memory fades over time and am trying to remember my experiences there and my roommates.

        • Hello Christine
          I was also there in 1970 and am trying to put events back in my memory. Interior pictures would help but I don’t think cameras were allowed. I woul;d love to talk with you and am also looking for a former staff person to help me remember life, rules and other details from that period of my life.

  4. This is actually a charter school now. Also, it wasn’t always Mediterranean style. It used to be a beautiful, all red brick building. I’ve looked for pictures forever, but can’t find any. I live on the same block as this building, and can verify, this used to be a bad girls home. “Unwed mothers” is a nice way to put it, but we used to get gang members, suicide cases, and lots of runaways, girls getting picked up by their boyfriends while trying to sneak out/escape.

    It was really crazy growing up with that thing on my block. Too bad they stucco’d it. It used to be look really cool.

  5. Wow. Just wow. All these coments about a building I knew nothing about. Makes me wish I knew all these folks. Great neighborhood.

  6. I started the Facebook page after I discovered last Christmas that I was born there. I had tracked down my birthmother in 2010 but learned the name and location after some Googling. I visited in January, was given an impromptu tour by the pastor of the chapel on the site, took pictures, and started the page to share them with my birthmom (who recognized her room and where she was when her water broke). Next thing I know women start finding the site and posting they were residents there and gave birth, then others posted they had been born there. Since many adoptions prior to the 80s were closed, my hope is that mothers and their birth children might find each other at the site.

  7. I was in this home when I was 17 back in 1975, the neighborhood was so pretty and yes, we did take our babies and go for walks. We had curfew and had to be in the building by 7:00 if I remember correctly. Also, I was not a “fallen women” just a messed up kid from a messed up home….

    • Hi Bobbie,
      I am trying to help a friend with locating her nephew that was adopted out in 1975. Her name is Mary Jo. Her sister was in a home for unwed mothers in 1975, she was much younger and visited her at the home but doesn’t remember the name of it. Her sister has passed away and she would like to try to find her nephew but doesn’t know where to start. I saw you post and was hoping that you might remember a girl named Bonita Sue Riggs. She was there in the spring of 1975 and gave birth to a baby boy and named him David.. If by any chance you could remember her my friend would maybe at least have a starting point. Thank you so very much for any help you might be able to give.

      • Hi Debbie,
        I was there much earlier in 1963 so can’t help you. I gave birth in late January 1964 and was forced by my parents to give my child up for adoption. I wish you luck finding the informatoin you need.

    • Hi Bobbie,
      Please write me! I was there in 1975 also. I was only 15.

  8. I was at Booth Memorial 2670 Griffin Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90031 in 1973, my cousin was at Florence Crittenton Home which was less then a mile away at 234 E Ave 33, Los Angeles, CA 90031 … Sorry to say this picture is not of Booth Memorial but of the Florence Crittenton Home. I walked from Booth Memorial to the Florence Crittenton Home to visit my cousin. Booth, Ctrittenton and St. Annie’s were all a help to girls in need, back in those days!

  9. These photos are of the Florence Crittenton Center, not Boothe. Both are within walking distance of one another and housed pregnant and parenting teens. I worked at Florence Crittenton Center for three years in the early nineties.

  10. I was born at Booth memorial in the ’60s and my mum kept me and she is definately not wayward , only fallen on hard times when she was pregnant and couldnt afford medical. She praises the Salvation army x

    • I was born at the Booth Memorial Home in 1956…My mother was not wayward…she made a mistake and got pregnant…are there any other adults out there born same place, same year?

      • I have an Aunt that may have been born here in July of 1957. Her mother kept her as well. My Aunt doesn’t know any other information about her life at all. Her mothers name was Beverly Gayle Ellis perhaps. My aunt’s name is Toni however I have read that information may have been changed..

  11. I was born here. It is like Meca to me.. a sacred place.. one day I will make the journey to see where I came from..

  12. looking for brother born in 1940….mother adopted out son at birth….mothers name Catherine Benavidez
    if you are looking for your family please contact ……She was in Booth home in or around Pasadena, Ca.

  13. I stayed at Boothe Memorial in 1965. The front waiting room had a really cool fish aquarium-helped calm the nerves. I can recall certain times we were allowed to leave the building in the afternoon and we usually went to the local drug store for ice cream cones.What a site we must have been! I delivered my son Dec 6th and we reunited April of 2011. There was no shadow of a doubt he would be adopted out. Girls today who keep babies can put a strain on family, family budget, society, not to mention moms and dads who are ready and able to adopt your child– without help from CSD. The sad part of my pregnancy;, birth control wasnt made available to us. Where I lived ,a person had to be 18 to buy condoms, which were kept behind the counter where the stern stare of the pharmacist awaited you. Now 12 year old girls can demand, and get, the
    morning after pill, but many dont. sad sad sad.it seems like we are providing an alternative lifestyle for our girls , with all the govt. handouts, housing , food. But I fear we are really robbng them of developing their minds and self worth.

    • I recently reunited with my birth mother who was there in 1965 also. I was born on December 5th of that year. My mothers name is Lana. I wonder if you may have known her. What a small world!!

      • Soana, I wonder if your birth mother knew my birth mother, Margo (Margaret). I was born at Booth Maternity home on Nov. 11, 1965. Would enjoy hearing about your reuniting experience. Colefamily4athotmaildotcom

    • Christina, I was born at Booth Maternity Home on November 11,1965. My birth mother’s name was Margo. I would enjoy speaking to you and learning more about the maternity home. Please consider contacting me colefamily4@hotmail.com
      Thank you.

  14. I attended this school in 1978. I was not a wayward girl. I just was in a really bad situation. I was placed in this school to continue my education while pregnant so that I could graduate, which I did. I did not live there, I lived at home with my family. This school gave me so much. My son is now in his 30’s , a successful pharmacist. I’m glad I did not abort. I praise the Salvation Army. Thank you , you helped make it all OK.

  15. I lived in boothe memorial in 1988 to 89. I gave birth to a son. I am looking to find some of the girl’s that were there during that time. I have been thinking alot about that part of my life and would like to catch. If any of you ladies see this please email me silkiefine@gmail.com. simone.

  16. I am researching my birth parents and found out that I may have been born at Booth Memorial in 1952. My mom came from Missouri. She gave the address of Booth Memorial Hospital as her address on my certificate of live birth. Quite a revelation! Now I need to trace her whereabouts since then……..

  17. Wow, it sounds like there is a lot of local history surrounding this place.

  18. I was born at booth maternity in 1966 been looking for my birth parents I know she was 19 years of age when she had me just wondering what they look likev a nd any outher family out there my records are closed whent down to los Angeles doption center got little information

  19. I delivered a daughter there at Booth Memorial home for unwed mothers, in Lincoln Heights, Calif on Sept 14 1967, I had to put her upmfor adoption, it was a very very sad day, I would like to find her, I think about her all the time, She was a beautiful baby, The home took very good care of me, I had no where to go, I remember the fishmtank in the waiting! That brought back painfull memories, I named my little girl Denise Macmillan, I ammsure her name has been changed. ! If anyone knows of her please contact me at 909 3072328

  20. I gave birth to a little boy….March 17, 1963…I was 19…broke my heart when I had to walk out of that place…and leave him there…can still feel the pain…even after 51 years..!!! I did find him when he was 19…he has been in and out of my life since
    then…he does not have much to do with me….and I do and always will love him so much…not a day goes by that I do not think about him….I can see him on FB…..and I do look at him every day…

    Met a few girls there that I often wonder how they are doing….50 years ago…we did not have ways to keep in touch…
    like we do now…==

  21. I attented this school in 2005-2006 ,i would love to obtain my transcripts but dont know how after hearing this building closed down ,where did my transcripys go??? Anyone with any information please contact me by email @ koolaidbeme24@gmail.com thankz ,Anita Miller

  22. I can relate to Cheryl R. and the other mothers. I gave birth to a son in 1962. Living at Booth was safe and supportive. The worker from the L.A. County Bureau of Adoptions was supportive and honest. She found parents for my son that were what I requested. I worked for the Salvation Army while I was there. All in all, it was a positive experience that I hold in my heart. That sounds strange because giving up my son was the most wrenching experience in my life. In the mid-1980s I searched and found him. He confirmed that the adoptive parents were as represented to me. The LA County Bureau helped me in my searach. We have had a relationship ever since. I am glad that the home was there for me.

  23. I was born here May 1965. I would love to visit this place next time I’m in CA. I found my birthmother about 18 months ago. She told me about the “unmarried mommies.” “Wayward” “fallen” – Good Lord, all of these references should never have been used. I was adopted into a wonderful family but am so grateful for my birthmom and the extended family that I am now getting to know. I’d love to connect with anyone who was there at the same time – approx February-early June 1965.

  24. Monique Domovitch

    I am an author, working on a new book where the main character is a young mother who lives at the Booth Home for Unwed Mothers sometime in the late fifties to early sixties. Any information people can give me would be greatly appreciated. What did the rooms look like? The hallways? Any baby sitting services? What about meals? Did the girls have work in or out of the building? How many rooms? Play rooms for the children? What ages the children? Any details you can think of would be greatly appreciated.

    • I am a poet and artist. I’d be happy to share information with you- I lived there in 1966. I can tell you there were not any baby sitting needs at that time- no one was allowed to keep their children – all surrendered. See Ann Fessler’s wonderful book, “The Girls Who Went Away”.

      • I was born there 1961 and I’m still looking for my Birth Mother. Please email me with any information as my records have been sealed.

    • I was was at Booth spring and summer 1969. To keep anonymous we went by our first name and first initial of last name. The rooms were like an old hotel from the 20 or 30s. The furniture was mix and match donated by different organizations or charities. There were plaques on the doors of who donated. Ours was the Wednesday Morning Kiwanis Breakfast Club. Not sure why I remembered that. If you weren’t keeping your baby you weren’t allowed to hold them. Only look at them through the window of the nursery. Heart wrenching. I was fortunate to keep my son and married his father. Let me know if you would like more information I would be willing to share some stories of my experience there.

      • I would love to hear Patsy. I was there probably 6 months after you.

      • Dear Patsy,
        I was there from November of 1963 until after the birth of my son in late January 1964. I remember the rooms. They were plain with a bathroom sink and standing closets. Down the hall of the two floors of rooms was a big bathroom with showers and toilets we had to use. We each had chores to do, I worked in the basement washing the linens and towels and folding them. Do you remember the clothing bin we could look for maternity clothes in left behind by other girls? I rermember we were not allowed to bring our own.

        We all adored the cook Mattie who fed us great meals. She liked to guess what sex your baby was and she was right much of the time.

        My parents wanted to hide me away and keep my pregnancy a secret so told family and friends I was at boarding school. My father was a drinker and knocked me around badly when he found out I was expecting so I was happy to leave but scared since I was just 15 years old. The babies father and I may have been young but we were so in love. He was a year older and was more than ready and willing to care for both me and our baby but the fear of my father kept me from going to him. Today, I regret I did not go! I found out from his family that he told them I was his heart and the love pf his life. He was the same to me and about a year or more ago I found out he lived in another state and wanted to find him but to my shock, he had passed in 2007 from pancreatic cancer. I still mourn his passing today. I have seen pictures of him through the years that his children who contacted me have shared. I keep in touch with them and we share stories.

        If on;y we could have made phone calls or had visitors not on our parents list! I’m sure we would have been happy and together all of our lives. We both did meet our son when he was in his 30’s by the way. Not at the same time but we did each spend time with him. My heart still breaks that I lost the love of my life as well as my son. I do know if I had the means to locate him after we moved and torn apart, I would have found him. The home was a refuge but it became my personal prison.

        Anyone else want to share their story? I still cry over my loss of my baby and his dad though I have had other children, I never have loved like I loved the young man who treated me like a princess. God bless you all.

  25. I’m helping a friend search for his birth mother. We think he was born at St Ann’s May 11th 1969 and stayed there until he was adopted a few months later. Male ISO birth family born 05/11/1969 Los Angeles CA. We hope and pray you are looking for him!

  26. wow hearing these stories are fascinating! i was lucky to live in the building in the pic from 1988 til 1991 was the best years of my youth! i resent one of the commentors describing the girls as “wayward” i guess its easy to judge when your an outsider looking in, yes there were girls with serious emotional issues who were abused, abandoned, molested, or came from dysfunctional homes, i also wanna clarify that Booth Memorial was for young unwed mothers only, While half of the young ladies who resided at crittenton were mothers who lived on the 2nd fl while the “non mothers” such as myself lived on the 3rd floor, i was no where near “wayward” remained a virgin until i turned 20 years old, i lived here because of my mother’s issues but i was not a bad or troubled adolescent, this place was a safehaven for me,believe it or not for extra credit i attended Lincoln high witch was in the area and those girls who had a home and a mom and dad were gang members, sexually active and doing drugs! so the point that i am making is u can find a bad girl in any part of the U.S from lower income to higher income neighborhoods it does not matter…i would personally like to thank all of the Crittenton Center staff members for their dedication and patience, my favorite Pat Munoz, Nate, Char, activities coordinator Bertha, Tom Tomasello,, teachers Penny and De’A nne i hope i got their names right any ladies who lived their between 1988-1991 email me at (cricketshops@aol.com)

  27. I’m so glad I found this site! I was at the Florence Crittenton home (pictured above) in 1965 and had my baby on March 29, 1965. At the time I was there, we were sent to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, signed adoption papers, and then were sent back to the “home” to rest for a day or two and then sent back home. Because I wouldn’t sign, I was put in a area all by myself. Later, I had to sign, there was no other choice for us at the time. I eventually reunited with my daughter but I will never forget any of it. My daughter and I visited the home a couple of years ago (then a school). I remembered every room and the room I stayed in. It was awful and still haunts me today. We were all told “you will forget, you will forget.” it was a lie. I never forgot. If anyone out there was there at that time, please e-mail me at dlovitt@asarco.com. I would love to hear from you. I conitnue to heal, even at this age.

    • sarah williams hoover

      Dear Donna, I gave birth to a baby girl at FCH in Los Angels Ca. in 1942…I gave her up for adoption & found her 51 yrs later. She lives in Hawaii.

      would you email me or call me. maybe we have nice thoughts to share.

      Sarah sarahshoover781@aol.com or 714 761-5618

      Blessings to you and thank you for reading this.

  28. I got into a lot of trouble as a teen and found myself in front of a judge more than a couple of times. I got placed in a few group homes in hopes that they will help me get my act together and this was one of them. OMG this place was terrible. There were a lot of lesbian relationships going on between the minors and it was totally supported by the staff. I remember running away once and this man started walking alongside me trying to convince me to go into an ally with him. The staff didn’t even bother to come after me or at the very least call the police. There was also a lot of gang activity. These homes are created with the best intentions, unfortunately giving the leniency and poor behavioral structure, places like this one cause more harm than good.

    • Hi Bella, my friend lived at Florence Crittenton in 1978 til 1981 or so. She told me about the relationships that were happening including her own, you there at that time?

  29. Bridgette Boucher

    I believe I was born here in July 1970. Would like to see if any others were possibly there at that time.

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