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The Ellis Story


Ellis Memorial & Eldredge House, now known as Ellis Early Learning, was founded in 1885 by a passionate young woman named Ida Eldredge.  Ida was inspired by the sermons of Dr. Rufus Ellis, pastor of First Church in Boston, to help her community, especially those less fortunate.  She set out to honor the memory of the late Dr. Ellis by opening an afternoon club for working-class boys, with the intention of enhancing their education and keeping them out of trouble.  As the youngest daughter of a wealthy merchant, Ida convinced her father to let her use a floor in one of his buildings.  The club was an immediate success and, within a few years, grew to include a girls’ program.  More and more services were added over the years, initially staffed by dedicated volunteers.


In the early years of the 20th century, Ellis was incorporated as a settlement house, providing a broad range of services to recent immigrants, most of whom worked long hours for low wages.  Settlement houses were often organized, managed, and staffed by wealthy patrons – often young women like Ida Eldredge – who had the time and financial resources to help. 


Those dedicated to the settlement movement believed education was a core service necessary to improving the living conditions of working families living in poverty.  Throughout its history, our work at Ellis has remained consistent with the settlement house philosophy, as reflected in our mission statement:


For over a century, Ellis has worked to strengthen Boston’s urban working families with high-quality education and care for children. The goal of all our programs is to engage, educate, and empower.


Ellis Through the Years



After 32 years as pastor of the First Church in Boston, Dr. Rufus Ellis dies on September 23.  In December, Miss Ida Eldredge opens her afternoon club for boys on the third floor of 241 Tremont Street. 



The club is officially incorporated as Ellis Memorial & Eldredge House. 



Ellis becomes a settlement house at Carver Street with three resident workers.



Eliot Wadsworth donates 243 acres of land and buildings in Sharon, MA.  With the land, Ellis is able to expand its summer camp.  Camp Wadsworth would continue for many years, with city dwellers of all ages coming for daytime picnics, weekends, and longer stays for children, families, and elders.



First United Presbyterian Church sells Ellis its church building at 66 Berkeley Street.  Ellis is able to renovate and use the space to expand programs and services.



Ellis becomes a member of the Federation of South End Settlements.



Ellis establishes the Adult Day Health Program to help the elderly and disabled avoid isolation and institutionalization, providing daily medical monitoring, activities, meals, and connections to a caring community.



Ellis becomes an affiliate of the United Way.



Ellis enters into a partnership with Madison Park Development Corporation to operate an out-of-school time program in Roxbury.



Ellis acquires and renovates 58 Berkeley Street.  In September 2012, Ellis opens a state-of-the-art Early Education Center to serve 117 children aged 2 months – 5 years. 



Ellis renovates its building at 66 Berkeley Street



Ellis’ School-Age program in Roxbury moves into the newly opened Dewitt Center


Ellis rebrands as Ellis Early Learning, and opens a new site in Jamaica Plain, serving 61 additional infants, toddlers, and preschoolers


Ellis legally changes its name to Ellis Early Learning

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