Generous Memphis women donated spare furniture, homemade quilts, a wood-burning cook stove and other equipment to the Orphanage. The City’s oldest organized asylum was first located on Exchange Street between Second and Third Streets (across from both the First Methodist and First Presbyterian Churches), and then on Poplar Avenue near Third Street (fronting the First Presbyterian Church). Among the most active contributors was Sarah Murphy Leath, who also served as a member of the Ladies Board of the Asylum. Mrs. Leath, a wealthy Memphis woman and member of First Presbyterian Church, had shown concern for the plight of orphans in the community. Herself a widow and mother of two sons of her own, Mrs. Leath had on three occasions taken orphans into her home.
By 1854, the little Orphanage had outgrown its crowded downtown quarters. Wishing to provide the Asylum with a larger facility and a permanent location, Sarah Leath donated nine acres of land one mile northeast of the City north of New Raleigh Road (later renamed Jackson Avenue) and east of Boundary Road (later renamed Manassas Street). Money for the original small brick building was provided largely by public subscription from the citizenry.