Jones Home for Friendless Children: A journey from adversity to compassion

Carlos L. Jones came to Cleveland from New Jersey with his family in 1831, when he was only four years old. He grew up poor, built a successful career as a young adult, and then suffered through the tragedies of losing three children and two wives.

Jones and his third wife, Mary Brainard Rowley, dedicated their lives to caring for children in need—in 1887 opening the Jones Home for Friendless Children, located in today’s Clark-Fulton neighborhood.

In 1845 at age 18, Jones worked as a farmhand in Parma, before returning to Cleveland and starting a farm equipment manufacturing company. The company thrived, making Jones a wealthy man, and he retired in his mid-50s in the early 1880s. He went on to focus on real estate investments and became mayor of Brooklyn Village.

During this same period, Jones bought land on Pearl Street in Brooklyn Village and built a 160-acre dairy farm, where he and Mary decided to open their home and farm to 12 children living in poverty—giving them a home and lessons in farming.

Jones Home for Friendless ChildrenJones Home for Friendless ChildrenAfter welcoming underprivileged children to their farm and reflecting on Jones' own childhood poverty hardships, as well as the heartbreak of losing his young son Marvin and his first wife Delia, Carlos and Mary felt compelled to establish an orphanage dedicated to helping orphaned and foster children.

The Joneses received a charter to open the Jones Home for Friendless Children in late 1886 and then created a corporation. The corporate officers included big names like Ohio native and former President Rutherford B. Hayes, Cleveland shipbuilding magnate James M. Coffinberry, and Lamson & Sessions founders Isaac P. Lamson, and Samuel W. Sessions.

The facility initially operated out of the Joneses’ cottage on seven acres of land at the corner of Pearl Road and Library Avenue, where they cared for nine children. Dormitories were added shortly after opening, to accommodate up to 50 residents. Mary died in 1898, leaving Jones a widower for a third time. After Mary died, he focused on his mission and the orphanage.

By the turn of the 20th century, the Jones Home was again running out of space. So, in 1902 Carlos commissioned architect Sidney R. Badgley to design a three-story brick Georgian Revival building that could house up to 75 children. 

Badgley was known for the design of several Cleveland-area churches, including St. Timothy Missionary Baptist Church in MidTown; Pilgrim Congregational Church and Scranton Road Bible Church in Tremont; and Lakewood United Methodist Church

Upgrades to modernize the Jones Home were made in the 1920s. By 1937, the home had taken in more than 2,900 children in its 35 years, and upgrades were made again in 1944 and 1960.

Also in the 1930s, the name was shortened to simply the Jones Home for Children, to attract more public funding.

In the early days, children were only placed with rural families and all children were given bibles when they left the home. The Jones Home for Friendless Children’s policy was to only accept healthy white, protestant children—a policy that remained even after it partnered with Community Chest (United Way Services) in 1937. The discriminatory policies stood until the early 1960s.

In 1966 Jones Home for Children merged with Children's Services to strengthen its counseling and casework. In the 1980s, the Jones Home served as a residential treatment facility for emotionally disturbed children and teenagers and continued to receive funding from United Way Services. 

In 1997, Jones Home/Children's Services and the Child Guidance Center merged to become Applewood Centers, which continues today to run the facility out of the 1902 Badgley-designed home as a behavioral health and social service organization for children and families.

The historic structure was named a Cleveland landmark by the Cleveland City Planning Commission in 1984 and was named to the National Register of Historic Places as the signature structure in the Jones Home Historic District in 2012.

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Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.