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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Picture accompanying 1949 fund drive. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald
Anna Blanche Cook of the Hillcrest Babyfold
HILLCREST BABY FOLD. The Baby Fold was the predecessor of the modern HILLCREST FAMILY SERVICES. In 1896 Dr. Nancy HILL founded the Women's Rescue Society to care for unwed mothers and their babies and started the Industrial Training School for Girls. (1) The site was along what became Asbury Road on land later used for the administrative offices for Hillcrest Family Services. (2) In 1909 the school closed for lack of funds. (3)
Dr. Nancy Hill

In 1914 Dr. Hill, growing old and concerned about the future of unwed mothers and their children, sought support from the community. Although she never had any children of her own, she delivered more than 1,000 babies. (4) The property on Asbury Road, a fourteen-room house and barn, and some money were deeded to the Iowa Conference of the Methodist Church. ST. LUKE'S UNITED METHODIST CHURCH accepted financial responsibility with other Dubuque churches making contributions. Anna Blanche COOK, the resident deaconess at St. Luke's took charge. The establishment which encouraged adoption was known as the Deaconess Home and Baby Fold. (5)

A publication of the Hillcrest Baby Fold, Volume XIV No. 3 November 1962

On July 15, 1921 Hillcrest Baby Fold opened its doors to show the improvements made possible by local donations. Beginning in March that year remodeling had included a complete new wing containing five rooms and a bath for the help, an up-to-date laundry, a large recreation room, bath, two nurseries and two sleeping porches for the babies. The old bathroom was dismantled, tiled, and equipped with new fixtures. Partitions were removed downstairs, the halls burlapped and painted, and a new front stair was installed. The barn and chicken house were painted, a large sanitary sewer dug, and a 250 gallon cistern built. (6) In 1924 the institution was renamed the Hillcrest Baby Fold in honor of Dr. Hill. (7)

Efforts were made by the staff of the Baby Fold to acquaint the citizens with the activities of the institution. As an example, on May 10, 1925 an open house was held to show visitors the grounds and most of the tiny babies. The older children were outside or on the porch in case of rain.

            The very small children will be on canvass 
            cots out-of-doors or in their small beds in 
            the bedrooms. The nurses and maids will be 
            busy attending to the demands of thirty-five 
            children. (8)

Donations to and gratitude for the Baby Fold were not limited to Dubuque. The Spencer (IA) Daily Reporter noted in 1954 that proceeds from a cake sale were sent to the Dubuque institution. (9) Obituaries from as far away as LeMars, Iowa carried mention that adopted children had come from Dubuque. (10)

The Baby Fold became a charter member of the Dubuque Community Chest in 1928. Insufficient funds, however, in 1948 forced the applications of admission for five babies had to be rejected for lack of room. In 1949 a campaign to collect $75,000 for the Babyfold received $22,100 in the first five days. (11) In 1953 construction began on a one-story addition known as the Baby Fold.

In 1953 officials reported that approximately 80% of the babies in the facility were born to unmarried mothers. When such a mother applied to the Baby Fold, she was given assistance in finding employment and housing. Until the time she could release her child for adoption, the Babyfold provided temporary care. (12)

A careful study was made of the baby's background on the mother's and father's sides when both were known. Many contacts were made with the mother and her family. A child was not considered adoptable until it was observed long enough by a pediatrician to consider adoption safe for the child and adoptive parents. (13)

Applicants for adoption submitted a letter of application and were then personally interviewed. Their doctor had to assure they would be good parents. Welfare workers examined their social history and the home they would provide. Once approved the available babies were considered for suitability of personality, physical characteristics, nationality, religion, education, and special interests. The number of Babyfold babies who had reached the age of four without being permanently placed was small. The Babyfold also cared for children whose parents were temporarily handling problems which made it impossible for them to care for a child. In those cases, the child was returned once the problem was solved. (14)

The Hillcrest Baby Fold lot at Linwood Cemetery for the frail babies who died.Photo courtesy: Linwood Cemetery
In 1963 the Baby Fold was renamed Hillcrest Children's Services, reflecting the expansion of services to the community. Hillcrest House, the original home of the Industrial Training School for Girls, became a home for pregnant teenagers.

The 1939 Dubuque City Directory and 1942 Dubuque Classified Business Directory listed 2005 Asbury.



1. "Dr. Nancy Hill," Linwood Legacies," Online: http://www.linwoodlegacies.org/nancy-m-hill.html

2. "The Early Years," Hillcrest Family Services. Online: http://hillcrest-fs.org/about/history/

3. Ibid.

4. "Dr. Nancy Hill."

5. Acts, Resolutions and Memorials Passed at the Regular Session of the ... General Assembly of the State of Iowa, 1919. Online: http://books.google.com/books?id=vFw4AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA55&lpg=PA55&dq=Hillcrest+Baby+Fold&source=bl&ots=S1CtNzJASG&sig=a8qlreTNdUYOG7sKTHKrUHYdriA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=u3GGVKbuDMmdNvqGgfgC&ved=0CF0Q6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=Hillcrest%20Baby%20Fold&f=false

6. "Improvements at Baby Fold Are Completed," Times-Journal, July 8, 1921, p. 13

7. Acts, Resolutions...

8. "Open House Today at the Baby Fold," Telegraph Herald, May 10, 1925, p. 12

9. "Proceeds of Bake Sale Sent to Baby Fold at Dubuque," Spencer Daily Reporter, December 29, 1954. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1907&dat=19641223&id=AmsrAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3NkEAAAAIBAJ&pg=2077,7843021

10. "Melvin Treptow Obituary," Online: http://www.obitsforlife.com/obituary/627925/Treptow-Melvin.php

11. "Fold Drive Near One-Third Mark", Telegraph-Herald, May 22, 1949, p. 17

12. "Helpless Tots Get Care at Babyfold Here," The Telegraph-Herald, March 8, 1953, p. 10

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid.