Agency History and Evolution

Thank you to our founders:

Mrs. Ebenezer Griffin, Mrs. David C. Alling, Mrs. Henry A. Brewster, Mrs. Alfred Ely, Mrs. Gilman Perkins, Mrs. Edwin Scrantom and Mrs. Seth Terry

The 1800s was a time of expansion throughout the United States. Rochester was described as the “1st American boom town”. In 1812, its population was 15; by 1870 it was over 62,000. In the middle of the century it was the largest flour producing city in the world.

Yet, as the explosion in population continued, the job market could not sustain everyone. Families were forced to go without basic needs. Many children were not properly cared for and their numbers were increasing.

A group of philanthropic women were stirred by this grim reality and asked themselves the question: “Why, in a community rich in resources such as ours, should a mother and children have to beg for food?” In December of 1856 these civic-minded women established the Industrial School Association. With the patronage of John M. French, the doors of the old Rochester House at 75 Exchange Street were opened so that they could provide Christmas dinner to 300 children.

By April of 1857 the organization was incorporated under New York State as the Industrial School of Rochester. In its first year the School served 264 girls and 272 boys.

Today, Rochester Childfirst Network is a multi-faceted agency. It continues as a leader in early education, child care, community outreach and national advocacy for children and their caregivers.  The third oldest child care center in the United States, RCN has evolved with the changing needs of society and children into a highly regarded nonprofit early childhood agency, exemplifying excellence, innovation, and putting children first.

As our founders intended, Rochester Childfirst Network serves children from all socio-economic backgrounds. It touches over 2,000 children and child care givers through accredited programs. Its professional staff of experts allows children to learn though a sense of play. With a focused leading-edge curriculum, its students thrive in a child-friendly nurturing setting surrounded by children of all abilities and cultures.

RCN Timeline

Click HERE for the complete history of Rochester Childfirst Network

1857:  Incorporated into the Industrial School of Rochester.

1858:  Moved to former residence of Mrs. Albert G. Smith at 133 Exchange St.; remained here for nearly 100 years.

1867:  Supported by the State Orphan Asylum Fund.

1918:   Became one of the original 36 local agencies to receive funds from the newly founded Rochester Community Chest, forerunner of United Way of Greater Rochester.

1924:  Vocational training ends and name changed to Rochester Children’s Nursery.

1954:  Relocated to four-acre site on South Avenue, building of new facility.

1957:  Carriage house on site renovated to add a school-age program.

1968:  One story multi-classroom building erected adjoining the former Carriage House which was used as a kindergarten.

1981:  Special education program launched.

1982:  Family child care support services added as a program.

2004:  Capital campaign funds expansion with two additional classrooms, a special-education wing and new offices and entrance.

2006:  Rochester Children’s Nursery becomes Rochester Childfirst Network.

2007:  Celebration of 150th year anniversary.

2009:  Nurturing Communities program with Monroe Community College is piloted for young mothers and their babies.

2010: Dedication and grand opening of the new Lloyd Library housed in the former kindergarten/Carriage House.

2014: RCN Center City location opens to the public.