Warren County Orphan Asylum & Children’s Home

Residential / Ohio

The Warren County Orphan Asylum and Children’s Home, later known as the Mary Haven Home for Boys, was located along Shakertown Pike near Lebanon, Ohio.


When Lebanon resident Mary Ann Klingling was killed in a buggy incident in 1867, her will left her estate to the county with the stipulation that it would use the proceeds from her estate to build an orphan asylum 7 so that white children could receive a “sound moral and Christian education.” 1 2 3 If the county could not build such a home by 1869, the entire fund would be transferred to the German General Protestant Orphan asylum of Cincinnati. 2 3

The commissioners of Warren County accepted the will with one exception: the clause that allowed white children only into the care of the home. 1 The commissioners appealed to the state legislature to amend the will in August 1867 and were successful in their attempts. 2

On February 11, 1869, the Ohio Legislature authorized the county to accept the Klingling fund and to construct and maintain an orphanage in connection with a children’s home. 1 3

In early 1873, the county acquired 52 acres west of Lebanon for the facility. 3 Six board of trustees were chosen by the Court of Common Pleases on August 3, 1874, and on December 12, the three-story Orphan Asylum and Children’s Home was opened at the cost of $23,000. 1 2 The second and third floors contained 15 to 20 sleeping rooms, each with three to six beds. 1 Twenty-five children were transferred from the county infirmary to the new residence, 3 the majority of whom were five to ten years of age. 1 The children were instructed to work on the county farm surrounding the property and attended school for nine months of the year. 1

A laundry was added in 1883. 1

At a county commission meeting in the 1930s, the name Mary Haven was first used in reference to the Orphan Asylum and Children’s Home, with Klingling’s first name combined with the word “haven” to denote the facility as a safe place for children. 6

In the 1970s, a study was conducted that determined there was a need for a home to treat juvenile delinquents locally, and by the 1980s, the Children’s Home had become a site for youth offenders. 6


The Children’s Home closed when the Mary Haven Youth Center, its replacement, opened in November 1995. 1 A non-profit youth counseling group and a ministry later occupied the complex. 4

In July 2009, local resident Terry Banker filed a citizen’s complaint with Lebanon’s housing code enforcement office who stated that the county did not comply with the original bylaws of the trust, that the county violated state law, and that the original Children’s Home needed to be restored as what it was originally intended for. 4 5

It was estimated that it would cost $5 million to remediate the Children’s Home of lead paint and asbestos and to complete a full rehabilitation of the structure versus $200,000 to demolish. 4 5 The county filed a lawsuit against the Ohio Attorney General’s Office on January 4, 2011, seeking that the trust on the Children’s Home be voided so that demolition of the Children’s Home could proceed. 5 The county was ultimately successful and demolition began of the abandoned Children’s Home in September 2012.


  1. Bogan, Dallas. “Mary Haven Home Has Long History Of Caring For Warren County Children In Need.” Warren County, Ohio and Beyond. Bowie: Heritage Press, 1979. 345. Print.
  2. Barnes, Joseph Daniel, et al., eds. Memoirs of the Miami valley. Vol. 2. Chicago: Robert O. Law Company, 1919. N. pag. Print. 3 vols.
  3. “Warren County Orphan Asylum and Children’s Home.” First Annual Report of the Board of State Charities to the General Assembly of Ohio. Columbus: Nevins & Myers, 1877. 85. Print.
  4. Trumpey, Elaine. “Iconic Mary Haven home now an eyesore.” Cincinnati Enquirer, 22 Dec. 2010. 24 Dec. 2010.
  5. Richter, Ed. “Lawsuit seeks decision on abandoned Mary Haven building.” Dayton Daily News, 23 Jan. 2011. 25 Jan. 2011. Article.
  6. Richter, Ed. “Old Mary Haven building has the county in a bind.” Journal-News [Middletown], 1 Aug. 2010.
  7. Van Harligen, Victoria. “Mary Haven orphanage exhibit open until Aug. 6.” Dayton Daily News, 12 May 2011.