The iconic gate at the entrance to St. Vincent’s means many things to many people. For some it represents the stability of a home, and for others a safe harbor during a turbulent time. For many it represents hope and a promise, that life will change when you walk through the gate of St. Vincent’s.
No account of Santa Barbara’s history would be complete without St. Vincent’s and the innumerable contributions of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. From establishing the area’s first infirmary for children, to providing low income housing for families and seniors, the Daughters of Charity significantly helped shape Santa Barbara.
The Bishop of the region saw the critical need for a school and orphanage in Santa Barbara. Answering the call, the Daughters of Charity sent two young Sisters from Maryland who arrived by steamship on January 5, 1858.
Undaunted by weeks of grueling travel, and despite their strangely new and unfamiliar surroundings, the Sisters got to work immediately, and within days of their arrival, opened the doors to Santa Barbara’s first English-speaking school and orphanage.
Throughout its long, rich history, St. Vincent’s has evolved just as the needs of the community changed. From their humble beginnings on De La Vina Street, to the lush, 21-acre, multi- generational campus today, the Daughters of Charity have contributed tremendously to less-fortunate residents of Santa Barbara. Today, St. Vincent’s remains the longest, continually-operating nonprofit social service agency in Santa Barbara, serving more than 600 clients each day.
The Daughters of Charity arrive in Santa Barbara and establish the area’s first English-speaking school and orphanage in the Casa Aguirre Adobe.
St. Vincent’s moves the school and orphanage to property at Cieneguitas Ranch, where sheep and cattle will help sustain the school and the Sisters.
The orphanage and school move to a new building at 925 De La Vina Street. Today, St. Vincent Avenue is situated between Bath and De La Vina Streets, southeast of Carrillo.
The Daughters of Charity open Santa Barbara’s first infirmary for children.
St. Vincent’s De La Vina Street building is destroyed by fire and rebuilt in the same year, giving rise to Santa Barbara’s first volunteer fire department.
Responding to the needs of working parents during WWII, St. Vincent’s opens its Day Nursery in Santa Barbara, one of California’s first childcare programs.
St. Vincent’s moves to a new building on Hollister Avenue in Santa Barbara. St. Vincent’s Day Nursery moves to Canon Perdido Street.
St. Vincent’s opens its residential program for children with developmental disabilities.
As children with developmental disabilities are mainstreamed into the public school system, St. Vincent’s closes its school and opens a communal housing program for special-needs children.
St. Vincent’s opens transitional housing program for single mothers and infants, today St. Vincent’s Family Strengthening Program.
St. Vincent’s plans to build the largest affordable housing campus of its kind in Santa Barbara.
St. Vincent’s opens its NAEYC-accredited Early Childhood Education Center.
Groundbreaking for St. Vincent’s Gardens, low-income family housing, and Villa Caridad, low-income housing for seniors.
St. Vincent’s Gardens and Villa Caridad open and begin welcoming the first low-income families and seniors.
St. Vincent’s is named Nonprofit of the Year by the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce; the Early Childhood Education Center receives NAEYCaccreditation and doubles its capacity to 98.
Renovations of Marian Hall begin, allowing for the expansion of Vincent’s Heart, volunteer services and the expansion of Marian Chapel.
Plans for future programs and services designed to assist low-income families and seniors continue today while remaining ever-faithful to the charism of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.