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The History of Woodbrook Assisted Living Residence
(formerly Home for the Aged, Inc.)
1874 The Home for the Aged, Inc., was one of the first public charities established in Elmira, NY. Some women in Elmira felt that provision should be made to assist families of Civil War soldiers. Papers of incorporation were signed on April 14 for organizing a society to build and maintain a Home for the Aged. Dr. Edwin Eldridge donated a parcel of land on Grand Central Avenue to the organization, specifically for the building of such a home. Dr. Eldridge, a physician who came to Elmira in 1857, established Eldridge Park after the Civil War and the land he donated for the Home for the Aged was part of the original park.
1877 Ground was broken for the Home for the Aged on June 5, but due to a financial depression, it was not until September 15, 1880 that the Home was opened. The original conditions for admission to the Home were an entrance fee of $150 and the individual had to be at least 60 years of age and a resident of Chemung County. In return for lifelong care residents bequeathed their assets and estate to the Home. This method of compensation was continued until 1972, when payment for room and board was instituted and bequests in return for care were no longer the practice. Although the original charter indicated that the Home’s purpose was to “furnish relief, safety, and a home for destitute men and women,” over the years the Home took its place as the residence of choice for elderly Elmirans.
1905 Through the years, the Home has subsidized a certain percent of its residents who otherwise would have been unable to reside at the Home. The subsidy was provided from an endowment fund established early in the history of the Home. The original fund raiser was organized and carried out in 1905. The residents made 27,000 signal flags for the Lackawanna Railroad, the proceeds from which formed the basis of the original endowment fund.
1980s Residents were paying approximately $8,400 a year to reside in the Home. The Board, after thorough study, concluded that an increase in the number of residents was necessary in order to spread costs over a broader base. Also, deterioration of the original building, combined with rising energy costs and industrialization of the neighborhood, dictated that the Board of Directors should begin a search for a more advantageous location upon which to build a new facility. Initial plans involved tearing down the original structure and building a new home further back on the existing property. Problems developed early in this scenario, however, when it was discovered through the New York State Dormitory Authority that the original title to the property reverted back to the family of Dr. Eldridge. In the process of gaining clear title to the property, it took legal counsel, Attorney Joe Buck, almost a year and a half to track down all surviving members of the family. In 1981 the original bid on this proposed project came in nearly half a million dollars high and the Board determined to investigate further.
1984 The Board of Directors of the Home, under the leadership of the Rev. John Humphries, Jr., began to explore alternative plans and locations. A search committee was formed and various pieces of property were considered. One controversial possibility, the long vacant Gorton Coy building at Main and Water Streets, was eliminated when Elmira City Council denied a developers request to seek a federal UDAG grant toward renovation. The Charter stipulated that the Home must be on the Northside of Elmira, within the city limits. Attorney Richard Keyser was hired to revise the Charter. It was revised to include only the stipulation that the Home must be located in Chemung County.
1987 After several years of dedicated discussions and research, the La Bella Architectural Firm in Rochester was hired to develop plans for a new facility.
1989 In August the Home purchased property at 1250 Maple Avenue from Mrs. Ruth Ostrander and contracted with Wellco, Inc. as the general contractor. On August 31 the official ground breaking ceremonies were held for the construction of the new Home, to be known as Woodbrook. Designed to accommodate 58 men and women in a 33,000 square foot, one level, modern but home-like facility, Woodbrook took approximately nine months to construct.