Ryther: Evolution of an Organization

The organization that is today known as Ryther began in 1885, with a simple act of kindness: one woman taking in 4 children whose mother had died. That woman was Olive Ryther, who became known as “Mother” Ryther, dedicated the rest of her life to helping children who had no one else to care for them. She is said to have cared for 3,000 children in her fifty years of service.

Ryther today serves 3,000 children, teens and family members annually. The focus of the organization changed upon Mother Ryther’s death, based on the needs of the community. What was originally called the Ryther Home became Ryther Child Center, which focused not upon orphans but on serving children with severe emotional and behavioral issues. Today, Ryther provides a wide array of residential, inpatient and outpatient programs to help clients with behavioral and mental health issues of any severity, from the most extreme to the most mild.

Over the 130 years of Ryther’s history, the fields of child welfare and mental health have evolved. During this time, Ryther has moved locations three times, growing from a simple house on a hill to a campus with nine buildings and three off-campus locations. Each step of the way, Ryther has adapted both its services and new facilities to match the changes in treatment styles. The following history, completed at the request of the Department of Architecture and Historical Preservation, is intended to show how the organization has evolved, as well as examining how each facility reflected the services provided within.