st charles history

Our History

St. Charles began as a boys home with over 50 acres of land for young males to work and play.  While the campus has changed over the years, it still offers teenage boys and girls a peaceful and structured environment for renewal, learning, and personal development.

In addition to its 84th Street campus, St. Charles has locations throughout Milwaukee, Waukesha, Kenosha, and Dane Counties in Wisconsin. In order to deliver programming as conveniently as possible, St. Charles often provides services in clients’ homes or their neighborhoods. Today, the organization employs over 250 professionals who are making a positive difference in the lives of more than 1,000 youth, adults, and families, annually.

The Planning Begins

October 12, 1920

The Planning Begins

Planning for what eventually became St. Charles began years earlier and included an extensive trip by Charles Knoernschild, the president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, through the eastern part of the country during which Knoernschild visited Boys’ Homes and studied practices of others who were charged with addressing the needs of these youth. In October 1920, Milwaukee County…

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Founding of St. Charles

November 4, 1920

Founding of St. Charles

It was on November 4, 1920 when the vision of Milwaukee ’s fourth Archbishop, Sebastian Messmer, and members of the local St. Vincent de Paul Society, to establish a home for boys who were under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court and in need of corrective training came to fruition with the founding of St. Charles Boy’s Home. On November 4, 1920, using ideas Knoernschild had gleaned…

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The First Superior Appointed

August 20, 1928

The First Superior Appointed

The first Superior appointed as Director of St. Charles was Brother Florentius, a native Milwaukeean who, having previously served as assistant superior general of the Congregation of Holy Cross and as superior of the House of Studies at Notre Dame, acted as Director of St. Charles from 1928-1931. Members of the Holy Cross Order continued to serve in the Director…

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Womens Unit Beginning

May 28, 1930

Womens Unit Beginning

Throughout the early years of St. Charles, the facility was supported by a Women’s Unit which, beginning with its founding on May 28, 1930, operated on the belief “it is better to build boys than to mend men.” The first president and long-time leader of the Women’s Unit was Olga Knoernschild, the wife of William Knoernschild, the son of Charles Knoernschild. Under her leadership, the St. Charles…

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December 1969

December 1, 1969

December 1969

Brother James Newberry was appointed Administrator of St. Charles and Lauer was appointed Executive Director. At the time of its founding, those in charge of St. Charles set a structured regimen for the boys placed in their care. The day’s agenda called for the boys to rise at 6:15 am; attend mass prior to their 7:30 am breakfast; perform chores, including washing dishes, making their beds, and…

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