Tag Archives: orphan

Kearns~St. Ann’s Orphanage

Published / by Pauline Simonson / Leave a Comment

Write up by Pauline Simonson 

Placed By: Utah State Historical Society in 1992 

GPS Coordinates: 40°43’32” N 111°52’43” W 

Primary Historical Marker Text:  

Utah Historic Site. Kearns~St. Ann’s Orphanage.  

Kearns~St.Ann’s Historic Site maker Photo credit: Pauline Simonson

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 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 expectation of accounts and records. The orphanage was converted to a parochial school in 1954, officially known as St. Anns’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 the 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 1900s and to symbolize its link with the past, it was renamed Kearns~St. Ann School.  

Marker placed in 1992 

Other Markers on the Kearns~St. Ann’s Building 

(Text 1) 

With deep gratitude and in loving memory of Jane Finn McCarthey, whose devotion to children, to Catholic education, and to Kearns~St. Ann School was the embodiment of Christian Service and Love. 2001 

Jane Finn McCarthey marker Photo credit: Pauline Simonson

(Text 2) 

1953 1997 

To the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word whose devotion to Kearns~St. Ann School instilled in children lasting Christian values.  

Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word Photo credit: Pauline Simonson

(Text 3)  

To the Sisters of The Holy Cross whose devotion to St. Ann’s inspired in little children the one and only hope. 

A M D G 

Placed here by the descendants of the late Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns 

Sisters of The Holy Cross marker Photo credit: Pauline Simonson

(Text 4)  

Kearns 

St. Anns Orphanage  

Erected 1899 

Kearns marker Photo credit: Pauline Simonson

Statue of Lady of Beauraing Belgium Marker Text: 

Our Lady of Beauraing Belgium appeared 33 times from November 29, 1932 to January 3, 1933. In this statue is a piece of the tree she touched.  

Kneel and Pray.  

Our Lady of Beauraing Belgium marker Photo credit: Pauline Simonson
Our Lady of Beauraing Belgium statue Photo credit: Pauline Simonson

Extended Research: 

In 1891, Bishop Lawrence Scanlan established the St. Ann’s Orphanage. This original orphanage was extremely small and did not successfully meet the needs of the Sisters of the Holy Cross running the orphanage. In 1895, land became available for Bishop Scanlan to purchase for a new orphanage to be built; however, he did not have sufficient funds so an annual fair was held to raise funds. Bishop Scanlan reached out to many people for help and Mrs. Thomas Kearns, the wife of Park City mining millionaire Thomas Kearns, answered and donated $55,000 for the building of a new orphanage.1 

Bishop Scanlan selected Carl M. Neuhausen to design the new St. Ann’s Orphanage. Carl M. Neuhausen was born in Germany. Carl M. Neuhausen was a well-known architect in Utah. He included a unique chateâuesque renaissance style in his buildings. He primarily designed his buildings for the Catholic Church of Utah. His designs include the Kearns St. Ann’s Orphanage, the Cathedral of the Madeleine, the Kearns Mansion and the Carl M. Neuhausen House.2 

In 1899, workers laid the cornerstone of St. Ann’s Orphanage and they completed the building the following year. The St. Ann’s Orphanage was renamed Kearns~St. Ann’s Orphanage in honor and recognition of the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Kearns. Once the orphanage was complete, it was put under the supervision of The Sisters of The Holy Cross. The orphanage housed upwards of 92 children ranging from five to fourteen years old. The orphanage soon became a functioning school for the children run by The Sisters of The Holy Cross. In 1918, Kearns~St. Ann’s Orphanage also became a day school for children who did not specifically live at the orphanage.3 

At least some of the children who lived at the Kearns~St. Ann’s Orphanage recalled their time there as a positive experience and believe they received a quality education. In 1951 David Handrahan was an orphan at the Kearns~St. Ann’s. In a news article in Intermountain Catholic, David Handrahan looked back on his time at the orphanage fondly and thought it normal to grow up with so many “siblings” and considered himself lucky to have such caring nuns who gave him and other boarders unconditional love and who acted as parental figures.4 Other borders at the Kearns~St. Ann’s Orphanage recalled that outings to parks, Fort Douglass, theaters, and other schools were a common occurrence. The Sisters of The Holy Cross running the orphanage showed the children love that they would not have received otherwise and provided the children with an education that helped them to excel. 

In 1953, due to the state’s expansion of the foster care system, Sisters of The Holy Cross stopped serving at the orphanage. One year later the orphanage closed and the transition from an orphanage to school began. The school was renamed St. Ann’s School. In September of 1955, the St. Ann’s School opened with 240 enrolled, which included students ranging from kindergarten to 4th grade. Each year a new grade was added until 8th grade was reached.5 

In 1999 Catholic leaders oversaw a renovation of the school and renamed it back to Kearns~St. Ann’s School in honor of its history and in recognizing, again, the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Kearns. Through the years, several plaques were added to the exterior of the building commemorating the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, the Sisters of the Holy Cross, and Jane Finn McCarthey. The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word’s plaque states that it was placed for their devotion to Kearns~St. Ann School and instilling in children lasting Christian values. The Sisters of the Holy Cross’s plaque was placed in honor of their devotion to St. Ann’s and inspiring “in little children the one and only hope.” Jane Finn McCarthey’s plaque is a memoriam plaque placed to remember and forever thank her for her work at Kearns~St. Ann’s school. Jane Finn McCarthey was an educator who cared deeply for the children she taught and prioritized both education of the mind and spirit.  

Standing in front of Kearns~St. Ann’s is a beautiful white statue of Our Lady of Beauraing Belgium. Our Lady of Beauraing Belgium is an apparition of the Incarnate Virgin Mary, who in the Catholic Church is the mother of Jesus, the son of God. Our Lady of Beauraing Belgium appeared 33 times to 5 children in Belgium from November 29, 1932 to January 3, 1933. Each time she appeared, the children reported being drawn to a kneeling position in front of Our Lady of Beauraing Belgium. She told the children to, “Always be good” and to, “pray, pray, pray.” There was much skepticism if Our Lady of Beauraing Belgium appeared to the children but on July 2, 1949, the Bishop of Namur approved the apparitions. Our Lady of Beauraing Belgium stands in front of Kearns~St. Ann’s with the plaque stating to “Kneel and pray.” To make the spot one of worthiness to pray to Our Lady of Beauraing Belgium, a piece of wood that she reportedly touched was placed at Our Lady of Beauraing Belgium’s feet. Our Lady of Beauraing Belgium is a beautiful reminder to the children at Kearns~St. Ann’s to continue to pray and be good, along with a reminder to educators and adults to trust the innocence and truth of children.6 

Today the Kearns~St. Ann’s School is still operating and fulfilling its mission to educate children. St. Ann’s Church was built next to the school and serves as the parish and church for the school. The continuation of the church and school signifies its importance to the community.  

St. Ann’s School Photo Credit: Kearns~St. Ann’s School accessed 3/2/2022
Early orphans at the Kearns~St. Ann’s Orphanage Photo Credit: Kearns~St. Ann’s School accessed 3/2/2022 
Present-day Kearns~St. Ann’s School Photo credit: Pauline Simonson

1. Kathryn Callahanby and Nicole L. Thompson, “Sisters of the Holy Cross and Kearns-St. Ann’s Orphanage,” Utah Historical Quarterly vol. 78 no. 3, (Summer 2010).

2.  “Carl M. Neuhausen,” Living Places, accessed April 4, 2022. 

3.  Kathryn Callahanby and Nicole L. Thompson, “Sisters of the Holy Cross and Kearns-St. Ann’s Orphanage,” Utah Historical Quarterly vol. 78 no. 3, (Summer 2010).

4.  “Kearns-Saint Ann Orphanage Border Visits His Childhood Home During Historical Presentation,” Intermountain Catholic, June 27, 2014. 

5. Kathryn Callahanby and Nicole L. Thompson, “Sisters of the Holy Cross and Kearns-St. Ann’s Orphanage,” Utah Historical Quarterly vol. 78 no. 3, (Summer 2010).

6. Patti Maguire Armstrong, “The ‘Golden Heart’ Appreciation of Our Lady of Beauraing Belgium,” National Catholic Register, August 10, 2016.  

For Further Reference: 

Secondary Sources: 

Kathryn Callahanby and Nicole L. Thompson, “Sisters of the Holy Cross and Kearns~St. Ann’s Orphanage,” Utah Historical Quarterly vol. 78 number 3, 2010.   

Carl M. NeuhausenLiving Places, Accessed April 4, 2022.   

Armstrong, Patti Maguire, “The ‘Golden Heart’ Appreciation of Our Lady of Beauraing Belgium,” National Catholic Register, August 10, 2016.   

Primary Source: 

Kearns-Saint Ann Orphanage Border Visits His Childhood Home During Historical Presentation,” Intermountain Catholic, June 27, 2014.   

Primary Photo Source:  

Kearns St. Ann’s School, “A Photo History of Kearns St. Ann’s,” Accessed Feb. 2, 2022.