An Orphanage on a Chesapeake City Hilltop Once Took Care of Dependent Children

The St. Basil's Orphanage in Chesapeake City.

The St. Basil’s Orphanage in Chesapeake City.

On an overcast Friday afternoon in mid-October as rain was spreading into Cecil County, I paused on the top of “Sister’s Hill” in North Chesapeake City, contemplating the history of an orphanage that for much of the 20th century took care of dependent children.  Here is what I have been able to dig up thus far, but I plan to look more deeply into the history of the institution as there isn’t much readily available written material.


The Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great (O.S.B.M), a Ukrainian Greek Catholic order, established a convent in the United States in 1911 after the Rev. Bishop Soter Ortynsky, O.S.B.M., the Bishop of the Diocese, requested the sisters.  The European nuns arrived in Philadelphia to carry on their mission, the work of teaching and caring for dependent children.

Soon after this, the sisters established an orphanage on a hilltop on a farm on the northern edge of Chesapeake City.  Ukrainians of the Delaware Valley,” an Arcadia Book by Alexander Lushnycky, has a photo of the original group of children at Chesapeake City, snapped during the summer of 1914.  In the early days, according to Lushnycky, only preschool children lived there and in the summer boys from the Philadelphia home spent the farming season in Cecil County, working and learning the trade.

The St. Basil Orphanage, alongside the C & D Canal, was caring for children between one and six years old and there were six youngsters on the farm, in 1933 according to the Census Bureau.  The Philadelphia home had seventy children, between the age of four and sixteen, according to the same source.

Today the property is vacant, the last of the aging sisters having closed up the institution.  I remember two elderly nuns still living there in the late 1970s.

More photos on the Facebook page for Delmarva History


9 responses to “An Orphanage on a Chesapeake City Hilltop Once Took Care of Dependent Children

  1. Mike, this is a surprise. Where is the property? I now live in Virginia but know Chesapeake City fairly well. Thanks.

    David Rambo Reston, VA

    Sent from my iPhone


    • David it is the farm right at the north end of the Chesapeake City Bridge. As you come off the bridge, the farm is there on the right and the street into town formers its northern boundary. I’ve got a lot more work to on this, but the sisters seem to be there about the time they got to this country (1911). I can remember a couple of the older sisters living there sometime in the 1970s, but I don’t think they were would have been able to care for children. I have a few more photos of it up on

  2. Mike, never thanked you for this response and for all the great work you do. I and many others greatly appreciate it!


  3. Kathleen Obarski

    Just read in the Cecil Guardian that Schaefer’s Canal House purchased the property to make a parking lot for the restaurant and the Cardin Trail along the C&D Canal.
    It would be nice if they could at least provide an historical marker to commemorate the history.
    I live in DE & did not know about this place. Saw some of the photos and it looks lovely. It’s a shame that the buildings will be demolished. 😦

  4. It would be great if the grotto on the orphanage property, apparently built by founding members of St Basil Ukrainian Church on the south side of town, could possibly be restored or perhaps relocated nearby to adjacent St Rose Church Cemetery where dozens of community Ukrainians are buried.

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