The North Carolina Visitor Center




Grandfather Home

Grandfather Home for Children: A Century of Service

A local Presbyterian minister named Edgar Tufts founded three distinct and needed ministries in Banner Elk, N.C. around the turn of the 20th century. One was a college, one a hospital and another was an orphanage. These organizations were created in the mountains, of the mountains and for the mountains.

Reverend Tufts opened Grandfather Orphans’ Home in 1914 by converting a farmhouse into an orphanage for homeless children. John and Mattie Holcombe shared Reverend Tuft’s vision, and served as the first house parents at the orphanage. Because of the growing number of children, a dormitory and a school were constructed. While serving as director of the home, Reverend Tufts’ son, Edgar H. Tufts, oversaw construction of many of the stone buildings still standing on the campus today.

When Reverend Tufts died in 1923, the Edgar Tufts Memorial Association was formed to benefit the ministries he founded: Lees-McRae Institute, Grace Hospital, and Grandfather Orphans’ Home. Trustees from Concord and Holston Presbyteries established a governing body to oversee the operation of these organizations. In 1957, Grandfather Home for Children was incorporated separately with an independent board of trustees, while retaining its roots with the Presbyterian Church.

Over the decades, Grandfather Home refocused its ministry to provide help to different populations of children. The ministry has adjusted and adapted to best serve “the child now before us.”


Originally, children were admitted to Grandfather Home for Children if they were biological orphans. Beginning in the 1970s, most children who lived at the home had been abused and neglected. Near the turn of the century, Grandfather Home’s residential treatment ministry focused on children who had experienced multiple placement failures and sexual abuse. The ministry also began facilitating foster care and adoptions.

There are currently 45 children living, receiving treatment and attending school at Grandfather Home’s Hayes Campus in Banner Elk. The ministry also supports foster families that care for 160 children. Since beginning adoption care services about ten years ago, Grandfather Home has facilitated more than 200 adoptions.

As Grandfather Home for Children faces the next 100 years, the ministry realizes the difficulty facing young people as they leave the child welfare system. These young people have no family support and lack the skills to be successful young adults. Their futures are often bleak: 50 percent will not graduate high school; more than 50 percent will be incarcerated and more than 60 percent will be unemployed.

A new initiative for the next century of service is the ministry’s Stand By Me program, to prepare these young people for a successful adulthood. To find out more about Grandfather Home’s Stand By Me program, or to learn how to get involved with the ministry, visit, or call 828.898.5465.

With a history of adapting to best serve children and their current needs, coupled with a strong private donor base, Grandfather Home for Children is well-equipped for another century of service.

Theater Festival

Sept. 14 at Grandfather Home Hayes Campus in Banner Elk

3-5 p.m. - Performance Art/Historic Tours

5-6:30 p.m. - Taste of the Mountains

7 p.m. - On-Stage Performances

Dr. Janet Speer will present a reprise of her

1995 presentation of Edgar Tufts and the

Grandfather Home Story, “A Cloud of Witnesses.”

Historic and Museum Exhibit featuring Grandfather Home artifacts

Sept. 14 - Jan. 11, 2014 at Blowing Rock Art & History Museum

Special Reception on Sept. 15 at BRAHM

23rd Annual Children’s Golf Classic

Sept. 30 & Oct. 1 at Grandfather Golf & Country Club

Contact April Miller at 828.898.5465 ext. 508 or for registration information.