History

Chicago’s Mercy Home for Boys & Girls began in 1887 in temporary quarters located above a Catholic library on LaSalle Street, in the shadows of the Board of Trade Building. Fr. Louis Campbell, a Chicago priest, originally named the home St. Paul’s Home for Working Boys. Later that year, the facility was incorporated as a distinct organization within the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and renamed the Mission of Our Lady of Mercy. 

When Fr. Campbell fell ill in 1889, Fr. Dennis Mahoney took charge. He raised a modest down payment and purchased a private residence at what is today 1140 W. Jackson Blvd., just west of downtown Chicago. The home has been Mercy Home’s headquarters ever since, and today lies at the heart of our boys campus.

Over the next century, Mercy Home continued to grow and innovate in response to the changing needs of Chicago’s disadvantaged young people. In 1987, Mercy Home opened a home for young women on Chicago’s South Side. That same year, Mercy Home’s Friends First mentoring program began matching trained adult volunteer mentors with children in need living throughout Chicago.

In August 2003, Mercy Home opened the Rev. James J. Close residence hall for boys on its Hay Campus. This new facility, which increased our capacity by 40%, enabled Mercy Home to provide healing for more young people in need than ever before. 

Fr. Close, the building’s namesake, served as president of Mercy Home for 33 years, mentoring and ministering to thousands of children. In 1993, Fr. Close invited Fr. Scott Donahue to assist him. Three years later, Fr. Donahue became Mercy Home’s associate president. In 2006, Fr. Close retired and Fr. Donahue assumed full leadership of Mercy Home, becoming its eighth and current president.

For a complete history of Mercy Home, view our brochure, “A Solution for Kids in Crisis” since 1887.