Flanagan: A Virtual Tour Of The German Roman Catholic Orphan Home In Buffalo, New York

An old sketch of the GRCOH, that I came across a bout a decade ago on the web. I  failed to keep the source citation, but will gladly attribute (or remove, if contested) as soon as I find the source again.

I mentioned in a post last week about the break-through I had, as a novice genealogist back in 2002, when the 1930 US Census was released, which allowed me to strike gold identifying the Buffalo, New York  orphanage my grandfather Michael John Flanagan and his brothers lived in when the US Census was enumerated in April 1930.

That orphanage was the German Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum, also known as the German Roman Catholic Orphan Home. I’m piecing together its history, but thought I’d share a contemporary look back into its past in the meantime — particularly since I hear that the ruins were demolished last year.

These are a series of 2009 video produced by YouTube user DrEggm4n.
This is a 2008 video produced by Damian Tetkowski.
This is a 2007 video produced by Sean Galbraith.
This is a slideshow of exterior photos shot by fixBuffalo between June 10-22, 2005.
 These are interior photos shot by fixBuffalo on October 28, 2005.

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0 thoughts on “Flanagan: A Virtual Tour Of The German Roman Catholic Orphan Home In Buffalo, New York”

  1. What a melancholy collection of photo-documents, Colleen. Wish there were some way to have gotten pictures of the condition the building was in when your grandfather was living there.

    1. Hi Jacqui.

      I agree about the melancholy nature of the photos and video. I’ve been following the status of this property since first identifying it with my grandpa 10 years ago, and I’m amazed at how much popular support from Buffalo residents (and other prior orphans there) kept making news. So, I was utterly shocked and disappointed to hear that it has been demolished last year. I really wanted the chance to get to visit the ruins, even if just from the street.

      And I am in the process of hunting down photos from the era when my grandpa lived there.

      1. I would be interested in photos of the murals painted on the walls by the children during the 30’s/early 40’s, as my Mother-in-law’s brother painted some of them. Richard Dettman was his name. If you have come across any surviving photos at all, I would love to see them.

  2. Colleen,

    I came across this site while doing a little internet surfing on the GRCO in Buffalo. My grandfather was their for at least five years, and his younger siblings for much longer, including during the time your grandfather would have been there. Neither my grandfather, nor his siblings would ever discuss their time there.

    I may have some photos – not very good quality from that time period that I would be happy to share with you. I wouldn’t be able to look for them until after Dec. 13 (I’m in grad school right now and up to my ears in work).

    Have you checked with the Sisters of Saint Francis in Williamsville? They were the nuns in charge of the organization and may also have information on the orphanage.

    Best of Luck,


    1. Hi Colleen, I was a resident there from around 1944 to 1948. When a website named GeoCities was active, I received many photos of the place from John Hanley?, who had extensive pictures. I probably have them stored on an old computer disc, but it’s hard to recover them. I vaguely recall trying to access my photo file from GeoCities, but since the site was down, they kind of “disappeared”. I still have a list on another computer of names of many of the residents from that era. My e-mail is: . Sincerely,
      Robert 44-48

  3. Hello,
    I am searching for information relative to children’s records from the home. My mother, Norma Jean Gutschow and her twin Edward Norman Gutschow were there about 1939-1940’s. They are both deceased and I would like to learn more about their lives. here can I get more information?

  4. Hello, My mother and her four siblings were there in the 1930’s. I don’t recall ever seeing any pictures of BRCO in use. Like to keep in touch with others whose relatives were there or have any other information. Kathy Marsh

    1. Hello, Kathy. What was your mother’s name? When was she born? My Mother-in-Law is still sharp and remembers so much about the nuns and so many of the children. I’m sure she would love to give you any information she recalls. Her name is Eleanor Brown. She’s 89.

      1. My mother her sister and 2 brothers resided there. I believe from age 4 years to 13. So about 1941 to 1949. She had many stories. She thought the priest was her savior, he did indeed save her from physical abuse from a nun. She and her sister finally made it to foster mother who I called Grandma Mag. My Moms name was Marion Fox. Her sister and brothers, Maria, Edward and Richard

  5. Just heard some of the stories from mu Uncle Chuck who will be 79 this year and was there off and on from about 1948 to 1954. The stories were very sad. Abuse and mistreatment from the nuns.

    1. Colleen Greene

      Dawn, that’s so horrible to hear. My grandfather died 18 years ago, before I started researching his family history, so I never heard him talk about this orphanage. But I know that he had a very sad difficult life in general in the various orphan and foster care systems he was in.

      1. Maybe because it was still new when she was taken to the Orphanage, my Mother-in-Law has good memories as a child there. Many of the children were not actually Orphans. Parents were simply unable to care for them as it was a difficult time in history. She left in ’44. I suppose it got worse as time went on. I’m so sorry for those that suffered.

        1. It got worse: my first morning in an assigned boys group , we were awakened by a screaming nun who made a beeline to three kids who were bedwetters. She beat on them and screamed racial epithets at them as she chased them into the showers. It was repeated the next morning and the next and the next…I was 8. We were assigned in groups by age

          1. Yes my Mom was beaten for bedwetting with rubber hose. Sad thing was the wet underwear found were huge and my Mom was very tiny. She said she repeatedly told the nasty nun who ignored her pleas.

  6. The building that is standing on the grounds was the living quarters for the boys.I was a resident when the orphanage was torched in January 1956,

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