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.
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.
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 – 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.
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.
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 – 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.