Jenkins Orphanage – North Charleston, South Carolina

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Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins

The Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins was born a slave in Barnwell County in April of 1862. Later in life, he moved to Charleston, where he went into business selling wood. On his way to work one morning, Jenkins discovered four young boys huddled together in a freight car for warmth. He realized that the community was in need of an orphanage, and on December 16, 1891, he founded Jenkins Orphanage.

Daniel Jenkins, Founder of Jenkins Orphanage

Daniel Jenkins • Courtesy of Jenkins Institute

Now called the Daniel Joseph Jenkins Institute for Children, the home has been a refuge for neglected children of the Lowcountry for over 120 years. This page shares photos, a video, and much of the orphanage’s history, but to learn more, we recommend you also read our complete story, Orphanage Band Instrumental in Jenkins’ Past and Future.

Jenkins Orphanage Band

The orphanage was chartered in July 1892 by the State of South Carolina; its mission was to create a safe haven for African-American children in need. Despite the state’s official blessing, the orphanage did not receive adequate financial support, so its founder, Reverend Jenkins, established the Jenkins Orphanage Band in order to raise funds.

Fox Movietone Video • Click to Watch Larger Version

The band, sometimes called “The Famous Piccaniany Band,” gained national recognition by performing in cities throughout the Northeast, Midwest, and South. They marched in the inaugural parades for Presidents Roosevelt and Taft, and they played on Broadway for Porgy and Bess. By 1914, the band had become so popular they were given free passage and new uniforms to perform at the Anglo-American Exposition in England.

Jenkins Orphanage Band Charleston.jpg

Jenkins Orphanage Band • Courtesy of South Caroliniana Library

Jenkins Orphanage – Downtown Charleston

The Old Marine Hospital served as one of Jenkins Orphanage’s early homes. Located at 20 Franklin Street beside the old county jail, it was designed by nationally-renowned architect Robert Mills, a South Carolina native.

Old Marine Hospital

Robert English of Hughestown, PA, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Constructed in 1833, the building’s original purpose was for the care of sick and disabled seamen. After the Civil War, it became a school for African-American children, and from 1895 to 1937 it was the home of Jenkins Orphanage. A fire in 1937 severely damaged the building, and the orphanage moved to its current location along the Ashley River.

Jenkins Institute – North Charleston

By the 1930s, Social Security began providing assistance to families who needed financial help to care for children. This resulted in a dramatic decrease of abandoned children in America, greatly reducing the need for orphanages. In time, the orphanage was renamed Daniel Joseph Jenkins Institute for Children.

Jenkins Campus

SCIWAY © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

A non-profit organization governed by a board of directors and an advisory board, Jenkins’ mission today remains the same as always: “To promote and support the social and economic well being of children, families, and individuals to enable them to become productive and self sufficient in their communities.”

While in the past the institute has housed children of both sexes, presently it serves as a refuge for girls between the ages of 11 and 21. The dorm can accommodate up to 19 children. Each room has a television and a computer and is semi-private. All the children live in this building and are supervised 24 hours a day by a staff of 10, which includes care specialists and counselors.

At 16, each child has the option to “age out,” meaning that they stay at Jenkins until they are 21. If a child decides to stay, she must pursue a higher-education degree. More typically, girls stay at the institute for one school year, and then return to their families.

The campus includes an administration building, a training facility, a dormitory, a storage warehouse, and even a pavilion.

Jenkins Institute receives support from local churches and mentoring organizations, helping expose the children to many different experiences and broaden their horizons.

In addition to state funds, the institute is sustained through private donations and grants. Jenkins hopes to bring in additional funding by becoming a stop for historical tours in the area. When we visited the campus and met with administrators, they shared their plans to build a museum which showcases the impact of the Jenkins Orphanage Band on the history of American Jazz. They are also considering growing sweet grass on their many acres of wetlands, planting locally-renowned Noisette roses, and designing a hedge labyrinth, which would provide a nice atmosphere for picnics.

Jenkins Orphanage – Bell of Hope

This bell was used to tell residents and employees of the Jenkins Orphanage it was time to gather together. Unfortunately, there was a major fire at Jenkins in the late 1980s which destroyed the administration building and several dorms. However, the bell was found in the ashes and lovingly restored. Because of its resilience, it was nicknamed the “Bell of Hope.” Today it stands near the new administration building, a reminder of the institution’s long and interesting history.

Jenkins Orphanage Bell of Hope

SCIWAY © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Jenkins Orphanage – Historic Markers

These markers are located just outside the Jenkins’ campus on Azalea Drive. They briefly recount the history of this important place. For more detailed information about Jenkins Orphanage, please read our article: Orphanage Band Instrumental in Jenkins’ Past and Future.

Jenkins Orphanage Sign

SCIWAY © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Jenkins Orphanage Historic Marker

SCIWAY © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Jenkins Orphanage Info

Address: 3923 Azalea Drive, North Charleston, SC 29405

Jenkins Orphanage – Add Info and More Photos

The purpose of the South Carolina Picture Project is to celebrate the beauty of the Palmetto State and create a permanent digital repository for our cultural landmarks and natural landscapes. We invite you to add additional pictures (paintings, photos, etc) of Jenkins Orphanage, and we also invite you to add info, history, stories, and travel tips. Together, we hope to build one of the best and most loved SC resources in the world!

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17 Comments about Jenkins Orphanage

omega CrookNo Gravatar says:
January 27th, 2015 at 6:07 pm

That is so nice of you Nadine. I am sure the residence would benefit from your donations. I am not an employee, however I can give you some information. I am a descendant of Rev. Jenkins’ kindness. My grandfather is one of the boys in the band that you see in many pictures. So you can see why I have an invested interest. I am sure if you call or go over to Daniel Jenkins located on Azalea Dr. Someone would be more that happy to accept your donation.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
December 29th, 2014 at 9:28 am

Thank you for your inquiry, Nadine. A website for the Jenkins Institute is listed at the bottom of the page. Hopefully, someone there will be able to guide you in regards to your donations. Have a wonderful day!

Nadine Michelle Santerre says:
December 28th, 2014 at 12:39 pm

I have clothes, shoes, books and toys to donate. How can I do so?

Nadine SanterreNo Gravatar says:
December 28th, 2014 at 7:40 am

Please tell me how I can donate items to the children in these circumstances.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
December 9th, 2014 at 7:46 am

I’m sorry, we are not affiliated with the Jenkins Orphanage. However, there is a website posted above, which may help you. Best of luck!

Cordero PorcherNo Gravatar says:
December 8th, 2014 at 11:53 pm

Do you guys keep a record of every kid that was a resident of your facility? Please respond as soon as possible thank you and god bless.

JayyyNo Gravatar says:
August 4th, 2014 at 12:59 am

I am an orphan at the following institute and its NOTHING like what it percieves to be, we barely eat, we have infestations of spiders and ants, there aren’t any computers nor TVs in any rooms, we barely get out the house, they make sure we do our chores but don’t make sure we eat. We don’t have any counselors, there is only at max 2 staff members on duty at a time. It’s horrible, and I think I can speak for myself and all the other girls in the house.

Jalia MurryNo Gravatar says:
March 7th, 2014 at 8:47 am

My father played with the Jenkins Orphanage band, and my mother’s family are Jenkins. My late husband was a musician and also played with a variety of great musicians; he played for Broadway shows and taught at a very prominent private school for musicians in Connecticut. If you would be interested in re-establishing the band, I would be interested in getting it developed and touring again.

CarolNo Gravatar says:
January 18th, 2014 at 6:01 pm

I’m researching the biography of trombonist Trummy Young. He reports that his first jazz influence was the Jenkins Orphanage Band, though he didn’t begin to play until he attended St. Emma School in Virginia. Later he played with Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, and other great bands. Just thought you’d like to know. Thanks for the website.

TinaNo Gravatar says:
January 2nd, 2014 at 3:26 am

Reverend Jenkins was a proponent for my family member who was lynched in SC in 1898. I will publish a book soon about my family and would like to share his verbal
support for their welfare, visit the facility, as well as make a monetary contribution.

Sonya StephensNo Gravatar says:
December 28th, 2013 at 9:47 am

My name is Sonya Stephens. I work at Colleton County High School in Walterboro, South Carolina, as a Graduation Coach. I am an advisor for 42 young ladies called the Sisters In Action and Ladies of Excellence. We embark upon several community service projects a year and would love to be apart of your team. If you are interested in some assistance please notify me. God bless you in your endeavors, Sonya

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
December 9th, 2013 at 9:13 am

How generous of you, Kim! Here is the link to the Jenkins website: Hopefully someone there can answer your question.

Kim greenNo Gravatar says:
December 8th, 2013 at 9:41 pm

I am looking to donate some used clothes, toys, dolls, etc. Can I do that here?

Beverly BurkettNo Gravatar says:
December 2nd, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Retired RN would be available for donating time.

WillNo Gravatar says:
August 6th, 2013 at 7:35 pm

My father was born in 1905. He was raised in the Jenkins Orphanage, but I cannot find any information on him because a fire destroyed all of the records. His name was William L. Brown.

JennyNo Gravatar says:
July 24th, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Hello! I’m interested in visiting the orphanage and interacting with the children. Is this possible? I have a human services degree and have always had the helping desire. Thank you for your time! Jennifer Jackson

Doris GrahamNo Gravatar says:
May 21st, 2012 at 8:23 pm

I was excited to be able to read about and listen to the band that I heard so much about. I was told that my uncle played in the band.


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