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Saturday, July 26, 2014

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

35 comments

  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 Glad we still have some beautiful buildings from those days….and not the same outdated ideals (for the most part anyway).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.

  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.
      Debbie

  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 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.

  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!

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