You wouldn't know it, but this unassuming red brick house located at 122 Maher Drive in Boys Town, Nebraska, is the birthplace of a nationwide revolution in youth care. Designed by Boys Town founder, Father Flanagan, in the 1940s, the building originally housed 25 boys and a counselor in a dormitory-like setting. Since its residents ate at the Great Hall along with everyone else at Boys Town, there was no need for a kitchen or any other amenities not related to sleeping, studying, or playing games.
This all changed in the mid-1970s under Monsignor Robert Hupp, when Boys Town replaced dormitory living with the innovative Boys Town Family Home Program. Under this new model, Boys Town youth would live with a married couple known as family teachers. This family-style arrangement was designed to give these boys, and later girls, a stable home life, something most had been lacking in their difficult upbringing.
The house on Maher Drive was to be the first of these family homes. From 1974 to 1975, it was renovated to accommodate a family couple and several Boys Town youth. A kitchen was added to allow meals to be prepared and served at home. Over the next 40-plus years, the Boys Town Family Home Program proved to be so successful that it became a model for youth care, not only at other Boys Town campuses across the country, but for other residential youth care programs, as well.
Thanks to the sturdy construction and efficient layout of Father Flanagan's original design, the house on Maher Drive and others like it on campus will likely last long into Boys Town's second century. This is especially true considering the fact that all renovations and repairs must be done to an exacting standard due to the entire town's designation as a national historic monument.
The house itself is a monument of sorts, too, one that celebrates the innovation for which Boys Town has long been known, and the notion that an idea can change the world for the better. In 1975, the Boys Town Family Home Program was one such idea. Today, it is the standard by which all other residential youth care programs are measured, and it all began here at 122 Maher Drive.