Ralston House is the third home of the Indigent Widows and Single Women’s Society. In 1973, the name of the organization was changed from the Indigent Widows and Single Women’s Society to Ralston Center and the building became known as Ralston House to honor the founder of the organization, Sarah Ralston.
In 1882, a very handsome bequest of $155,000 from Miss Mary Shields formed the cornerstone of a building fund, which together with a gift of $50,000 from Mrs. Elizabeth H. Farnum, a manager for thirty-five years, and gifts from about 50 other donors enable the Society to acquire land from the Keen estate at 3615 Chestnut Street Philadelphia. The sale of the institution on Cherry Street added $47,500 to the fund, so steps were taken for a new site and plans were drawn by Wilson and Brothers, architects (who also designed the train shed for Reading Terminal), for a building to accommodate one hundred inmates, with sunshine for each room, complete heating and lighting arrangements and household equipment. They were submitted to a committee of conference called by the managers, consisting of Messrs. Charles Platt, J.L. Erringer, A.J. Drexel, Richard C. Dale and George W. Childs, who strongly endorsed the movement. Many friends of the time honored institution assisted in completing the necessary building fund and in May 1886 the large family was moved to the new home and the building dedicate June 9, 1886, free of debt.
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