Treasures of History at Episcopal SeniorLife Communities
The rich foundation of The Episcopal Church Home naturally gives way to special treasures of history from time to time. Founded by four Episcopalian women in 1868 with the mission of helping orphans and widows, The Episcopal Church Home has had many people stroll through the halls during its 140-plus years of caring service. One particular individual visited ECH recently, and she reflected on memories of when she first lived at “The Home” while in her teens.
Mrs. Jeanette Smith Ebert lived at The Episcopal Church Home from 1930 to 1938 as a young girl. She returned to The Center for Rehabilitation which is located at The Episcopal Church Home on Mt. Hope Ave. When she had to make a decision on where to receive rehabilitation care, her first choice was Episcopal SeniorLife Communities “because they offered such great care” over 7 decades ago. Times have certainly changed since then, but Mrs. Ebert says that “the care at The Episcopal Church Home has not!”
Now 88 years old, Mrs. Ebert still remembers trips to the circus, Girl Scout outings, and playing cops and robbers in the backyard of The Episcopal Church Home. She speaks fondly of the Board Members at the time who invited her over to their homes, including Mrs. Barry. She also remembers Mrs. Averill, and when the Ford St. Bridge was actually Clarissa St. Mrs. Ebert says, “You always knew the rich kids because they had angora sweaters. Well, one of the first things I bought when I had enough money saved was an angora sweater.”
At the time when Mrs. Ebert lived at what was affectionately called “The Home,” she was part of a large “family” comprised of women, children, and older adults. Monthly records from the Episcopal Church Home in the 1930s include the closing statement: “Present in the Family: Adults 26, Children 15.” The numbers changed, but the same clause remained unchanged: “…in the Family.” Episcopal SeniorLife Communities still exists as a family of small communities. The environment at each community, including River Edge Manor, Brentland Woods, and Seabury Woods, is close-knit and feels much like family.
The backyard of “The Home” used to be an open place for the children to play on a swing set, seesaw, and to go tobogganing. Mrs. Ebert tells of picnics by the river and watching the boats on the river.
A fire took place in 1937 shortly after the Fire Marshall came for the annual inspection of the premises, as noted in the monthly reports. The December journal reads: “On November 9th, the Fire Marshall visited the Home for his annual inspection and commented on how well everything was taken care of. He gave a very close inspection of equipment, clothes closets and room and when asked if there were any recommendations to give, the reply was ‘everything is fine.’ November 10th an Executive Board Meeting was held. Supt. Reported fuses blew out this morning in kitchen and that two electricians had assured her all was in order. No mention would be made of this but for the fact that at 12:20 a fire broke out on third floor in the roof and no hearing on what we had been concerned about. …With Miss Murray’s help all the family and employees left the building quietly.” Mrs. Ebert remembers living at Hillside for a time before moving back with her father. It was after this time that the Episcopal Church Home made the decision to focus care on older adults.
Mrs. Ebert mentions that she was charged $3.50 per week to stay at the Home. “And that was during the depression!” As we’re facing what many call a rough economical situation, she reminds people, “We lived through the first one, we’ll live through this one.”