Nursing Homes

9/17/2020 | By Rachel Marsh

The current Widows Home of Dayton is dedicated to Nancy Trotter Bates. This woman, a hero within her community, had a naturally philanthropic attitude and strived to serve her community in whatever way it needed most.

She passed away long before she could see the abundance of people that she ultimately served over the decades (and even centuries); but the foundation of support that she built in the community helped more than she could have ever imagined.

A Home for Orphaned Children

Nancy Trotter Bates

The Widows Home initially began as an orphanage. Seeing a gap in the community, Bates sought to create a refuge for orphaned girls. As head of the Dayton Female Association (or DFA, founded in 1844), she worked to raise funds for her compassion-fueled mission. With contributions from Dayton citizens, the association constructed a brick building on Magnolia Street (where Miami Valley Hospital now stands); and the Dayton Female Orphans’ Asylum on Charity Hill was born.

For decades, it successfully served young orphan girls; it gave them a home, an education, and a strong community where they may not have otherwise had one. In 1866, however, the county took over care of orphaned children; private shelters such as this one were, therefore, no longer feasible.

A Sanctuary for Civil War Widows

The home sat unused for a while, as the Dayton Female Association worked to decide what to do with it.

Then, in 1870 – seeing yet another need arise in the community – Bates had the idea to use the home for widows of Civil War soldiers. Many of these women, she noted, urgently sought some form of respite. “The Civil War had begun and Mrs. Bates saw a growing need and that was for widows of Civil War soldiers,” says Linda Roepken, director of development for the Widows Home of Dayton. “They had no place to go, they had no money.”

The women of the DFA reorganized as the Women’s Christian Association (forerunner of the YWCA) in an effort to legally acquire the property for their endeavors. Sadly in 1870, Nancy Trotter Bates passed away; her daughter, Susan Winters, then took over as president of the group and continued to implement their mission.

As needs for Civil War widows continued to grow, the home underwent all of its necessary repairs and procedures to properly harbor these women. It opened its doors in 1875, inviting “any widow or destitute woman of good moral character over age sixty years who had resided in Dayton five years” to become a permanent resident.

In 1876, 34 women total found shelter at the Widows Home – some stayed overnight, while others remained for years.

A Century of Serving

Eventually, the home was in such high demand, it outgrew itself. In 1883, the Dayton Female Association collected enough donations to build a new Victorian-style, three-story brick house with a full basement. It went up on its current two-acre site, donated by Dayton banker, William P. Huffman.

The Widows Home continued to thrive, housing multitudes of women in need of shelter, warmth, and – most importantly – a community.

Then, 68 years later in 1951, out of concern for the residents’ safety, they cleared out the two upper floors for living purposes due to the property’s age. They then added two ground floor wings, plus a modern infirmary, and could then house up to 31 women at a time!

Widows Home of Dayton
Modern day

In 1957, they received a generous yet unexpected gift. Local businessman William F. Neff bequeathed the Widows Home enough to begin construction of another dormitory and a fully equipped infirmary – in addition to other luxuries like a new paneled dining room, a modern kitchen, and a solarium.

Shortly after, in 1961, the YWCA cut ties with the Widows Home; the oversight committee then elected to become the independently operated Widows Home of Dayton. 

Eventually, the original (and nearly century-old!) brick Victorian house was razed in 1972 after a $750,000 bequest from former board member, Thelma Dreese. The final section of development was then built; it featured administration offices, a parlor, multipurpose room, beauty parlor, and – the thing that the ladies most wanted – a large porch.

And, although many of the Victorian furniture pieces were sold at auction, some still furnish the current Widows Home today!

The Senior Community of Modern Day

To continue serving the needs of the area, the Widows Home eventually transitioned into a community for seniors. In 1976, it earned a license to serve as a home for the aging by the Ohio Department of Health; and – from there – it welcomed in senior women.

Since then, the facility has continued to grow and flourish. The Widows Home of Dayton has had multiple renovations, and extensions over the years; and in 2000, it also opened its doors to men. It is now a fully licensed nursing home; it offers both long-term skilled nursing care, in addition to short-term rehabilitation services.

“We work hard to keep it up to date, and make sure that it’s beautiful,” Roepken explains. “But we pay homage to our history … there are some of these antiques that sit around, and some pictures of our founder. Otherwise we’re fully modern, fully equipped to care for [both short-term and long-term residents].”

The Widows Home of Dayton has come a long way since its beginnings as an orphanage. But, regardless of its many phases and transitions, it continues to serve the greatest needs of its community … a progression that could only make Nancy Trotter Bates proud!

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Rachel Marsh

Award-winning writer Rachel Marsh has written for many different sites and publications on a variety of topics. She is the multimedia editor for Seniors Guide and works hard to make sure seniors and their families have the best information possible. When she’s not writing for work, she can be found writing for fun. Really!

Rachel Marsh