Earlier this month, Brooks-Howell Home celebrated its 60th birthday. The following is a look at its history, the people who made it possible, as well as tangible pieces of history that reside in Brooks-Howell Home to this day.
A Brief History
The need for another retirement home was considered by the Women’s Division of Christians Service (WDCS) of the Board of Missions (now the national office of United Methodist Women) in the early 1950’s. At the time there were three, each with a waiting list. The WDCS had 500 active deaconesses and 500 missionaries under appointment; plus the responsibility for about 250 retirees in each category. All of these were single women. The 1954 Assembly offering was designated as “something for deaconesses and missionaries.” The decision was made for a home and the location was chosen by surveying all active and retired missionaries and deaconesses. Mable K. Howell, for whom BHH is named, had retired to Asheville and was instrumental in the selection of this site.
The house was purchased in 1956 and opened in 1957 as “Brooks-Howell Home” with nine residents. The main building (later named Bethea) opened in 1961. The first expansion was the Chandler-Burris Apartments in 1965, named for Helen Chandler and Emma Burris, the chair of the board of BHH and the WDCS liaison staff person from the New York Office respectively. The Jones-Cadwallader Apartments followed in 1970, and the Cummings Health Unit in 1977.
The Quad was opened in 1994. The Village and Activities Building were built in 1996-97, the latter championed by Deaconess Social Worker Elizabeth Nowlin. Deaconess Helene Hill contributed to the idea of a therapy pool which was constructed in 1998. The Chapel and the Apartments were the final expansions in 2003. All the buildings and units are named for women in recognition of their leadership.
Pieces of History
Brooks-Howell Home has inherited furnishings from the WDCS retirement homes that were open in the 1950s. One is a display case from the Founder’s room of Tremont Methodist Church in Boston, which commemorates the founding of the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society in 1869. Another piece is the grandfather clock from the Bancroft Home (the first retirement home), from 1912. There is also a bamboo display case and two large chairs from Bancroft Taylor.
BHH also has a few pieces from the Robincroft Retirement Home. The Robincroft Retirement Home was once the estate of Jane Bancroft, who later became Mrs. George O. Robinson. The influential deaconess donated her Pasadena, California home, called “The Castle”. The Castle would become the Robincroft Retirement Home. From her home we have beautiful stained glass panels in our Lobby window, a fireplace in the International Room, a richly upholstered settee with matching chairs and a gilt mirror in the Chapel corridor.
Brooks-Howell Home has a rich history, and we truly appreciate all of those whose vision created this Home. We celebrate the millions of United Methodist Women members who supported it through all these years and those who continue to support it with gifts of love, volunteer time, supplies, and their mission giving.
Special thanks to Barbara Campbell and Betty Letzig for this information and their wonderful presentations.