The History of The Larkin Center
The spirit of volunteerism was present from the very beginning of The Larkin Center. For many years Mary Peabody helped out her neighbors by taking care of their children when they were unable. Her generosity was called on many times, and from 1894 to 1895 her small home on St. Charles Street became known as “The Miss Mary Peabody Home for Babies”. Eventually requests for her help surpassed her resources and she turned to the city fathers for help.
An organization of community leaders formed to help with the support of the children in her care, and on June 24th, 1896 “The Elgin Children’s Home Association” was officially chartered as an Illinois corporation, and donations were solicited from the community to support Ms. Peabody in her important work.
In January of 1902, Cyrus H. Larkin offered to donate an 11-room home with four adjoining lots. He made one request- that the “home” be named “Larkin Home For Children” in memory of his mother, the late Sarah A. Larkin. By 1911 the existing home was no longer sufficient for the number of children needing its services, and 3 acres of land were purchased on Larkin Avenue. A fund raising campaign was conducted for the construction of a new facility, and on June 10th 1912, the new “home” at 1212 Larkin Avenue was opened.
In the 1960’s Larkin began caring for wards of the state who had been abused and neglected by their families. About the same time Larkin began treating these children in group home settings of no more than 8 children each in the Elgin community and the building on Larkin Avenue was re-tasked as an administration center. A special Education School was added in 1968, and an Adult program in 1981. The agency’s name was changed to “The Larkin Center” to more accurately reflect the array of services provided.
From humble beginnings rooted in the gracious generosity of one caring woman, Larkin Center has grown to become one of the finest treatment centers of its kind offering a staff of caring and highly skilled workers who can truly make a dramatic difference in the lives of those they serve.