Friday, December 14, 2007

Home For Aged Couples

Interior, Home for Aged Couples (BPL Flickr collection)

This institution is at the very edge of my arbitrary definition of Jamaica Plain, although I confess that I never would have thought of if as being within the community I grew up in. At the time this article was published, it was at the border of the districts of Roxbury and West Roxbury. The map below shows the property at the corner of Columbus and Walnut avenues, with Seaver street just out of view, and Franklin park also off the page across Walnut avenue. The home sounds like an early version of an assisted living home. The original name of the organization was certainly quite unfortunate.

The organization survives to this day in a new home and a new manner, as you can read here.

Boston Daily Globe May 30, 1887

For Aged Couples. A New Home Provided in West Roxbury. History of a Useful Though Modest Charity - Its Change of Name. Life of the Residents in Their Declining Years.

Near the Northern corner of Franklin Park on Walnut avenue, between Seaver and School streets, stands the new Home for Aged Couples.Acquired by purchase from Edward E. Rice about a month ago, the house has been occupied by the home two or three weeks, and the inmates are already well settled in their new quarters.

The associations history is brief. Organized in January, 1883, and incorporated May 20, 1884, the first home was opened June 12, 1884, at 431 Shawmut avenue. Its original name, "New England Aid Society for the Aged and Friendless," was changed at the session of the Legislature in 1886 to "Home for Aged Couples," and this name fully describes the charity and its objects. Three couples were received in the home in 1884 and three more in 1885, reaching the limit of capacity of its former quarters. By the move to West Roxbury the number of couples which can at one time be cared for is raised from six to 11 or 12. only one death has occurred among the inmates, J.Q.A. Litchfield, a deacon in the First Baptist Church on Commonwealth avenue having died the week before leaving the residence on Shawmut avenue.

No better residence could be desired for the beneficiaries of this charity than is afforded by the large airy rooms, spacious corridors and verandahs and ample grounds connected with the newly acquired house. The great front hall, 12x36 feet, is in striking contrast with the halls generally provided by modern builders. The ceilings are high, the rooms commodious, and comfort is provided for at every turn. Three acres of land well stocked with fruit and shade trees surround the house.

The beneficiaries of the home must be at least 60 years of age. The number of applicants is so great that the trustees are enabled to make careful selection, and preference is given to those over 70 years of age. A couple are about to be received whose ages are now 94 and 82 respectively. The oldest man now at the home is 84 years old, and he works daily outdoors planting in the garden. The oldest woman, who is 87, is unusually active. She is a member of the Park Street Church, and when the home was on Shawmut avenue used occasionally to walk to church and back on Sunday.

Preference is given in receiving inmates to those who have no children or other relatives who might care for them. The residents, with the exception of one couple, have no children. Most of them have seen better days. The value and importance of this charity lies in the fact that such couples need not in their age and dependence be separated, but may have a home together. In case of death the survivor remains an inmate.

Life in the institution is essentially life at home. The inmates are free to come and go, and receive visitors. So far as they are able to work about the place, the men in the garden and woodshed, the women in their rooms, sewing or caring in their husband in sickness. One inmate is blind and another paralyzed, but good health is the rule. Preaching services are held on the second and fourth Sundays in each month by pastors of various denominations, and services of song are held on the alternate Sundays. Musical entertainments are held from time to time in the afternoon. In the summer season horse car rides are occasionally given by the city mission, and harbor rides by the Young Men's Christian Association. The latter organization also sometimes provides carriage rides for invalids in the Home, and other similar provisions are made by the management of the institution. The inmates take their meals at the same table, visit each other in their rooms and stroll in company in Franklin Park or about the grounds of the home. In few things are they made to feel that they are subject to the "rules and regulations" of an "institution."

Each couple pays on entering the home $400 and assigns to the trustees for the benefit of the home such property as they may possess. In case of their obtaining money or property after their admission it will be necessary to make it over to the corporation, if they continue as inmates of the home.

Of course, the money received from inmates falls far short of meeting the expenses. The income is increased by fairs, festivals, membership fees, donations and bequests. Last year the fair for the benefit netted over $5000 and the recent Russian festival in Music Hall cleared over $1675. The new home cost $27,500. When the purchase was negotiated the institution had $6000 on hand, and within a week $4000 more was raised. The value of the Shawmut avenue property is about $13,500, and this amount will eventually be applied toward extinguishing the present mortgage. The new home was for 20 years the residence of Edward E. Rice, a dealer in dyestuffs, having his place of business at 281 Franklin street. There are employed upon the place a lady superintendent, who is the resident physician; and a nurse and a cook, besides one man engaged in the outdoor work.

The officers of the home are a president (Elizabeth Abbott Carleton, M.D.), six vice presidents, a secretary, treasurer, auditor, 20 trustees, a board of council numbering 12, two consulting physicians and a superintendent. Of these all are ladies save the treasurer, auditor, one of the trustees, all the board of council and one of the consulting physicians.

Richards, L.J. 1899 (copyright © 2000 by Cartography Associates)
David Rumsey Collection

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