Washburn House in Worcester to begin a new life

Washburn Houe Worcester


Nineteenth-century industrialist and philanthropist Ichabod Washburn amassed a fortune manufacturing steel wire, and shared his wealth in the founding of Mechanics Hall, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and other endeavors to help the sick and the unfortunate, including the Home for Aged Women in 1869.
A new brick Victorian building at 1183 Main St. provided a home for elderly indigent women starting in 1896, and later served as a nursing home until it closed in 2008.
But with the swing of a sledgehammer, officials yesterday kicked off a $2 million renovation of the former Ichabod Washburn House, which will reopen in March as the Ichabod Washburn Hospice Residence.
“This is about renewal, revitalization and regeneration,” City Manager Michael V. O’Brien said minutes before he and officials of Eastern Orthodox Management Corp. took turns whacking away at a section of wallboard in a symbolic start to the project.
“This groundbreaking is about bringing this beautiful building back to life in so many ways,” Mr. O’Brien said, standing a few feet away from an oil portrait of Mr. Washburn that was placed on a fireplace mantel.
“It’s nice to see these beautiful buildings brought back to their glory, the effort to preserve them and find an appropriate use for them. … It’s a use that goes back to its intended purpose … the compassionate care for others.
“This is a visible and tangible commitment to the city.”
The building, which fronts on Main and Stafford streets, will be a 19-bed hospice, with apartments for visiting families. It will create 20 new jobs once open, Mr. O’Brien said.
After the nursing home closed in 2008, the trustees of the Washburn House awarded its assets to Eastern Orthodox Management, which manages Holy Trinity Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center on Barber Avenue. The organization assessed the needs of the community and decided that a hospice residence would be the best use for the building, said Karen M. Laganelli, executive director of Eastern Orthodox Management.
“So many never make it, and go without the care they need,” she said. This will allow them to receive care during a critical time of life. It’s a wonderful way for the building to serve Worcester.”
The project is being financed with a loan taken out with United Bank, Ms. Laganelli said. “That allowed us to get this done sooner,” she said of the loan. A fundraising drive is also planned.
Mayor Joseph C. O’Brien said the new use for the building will keep Mr. Washburn’s original intent alive.
“Compassionate care is continuing under a different team,” he said.
The Ichabod Washburn Hospice Residence will be affiliated with Holy Trinity Hospice, Memorial Home Health and Hospice, Jewish Home Health and Hospice, and Notre Dame Hospice, Ms. Laganelli said.
Gregory J. O’Connor Associates Inc. of Worcester is the architect for the project. The general contractor is Aberthaw Construction of Lowell.
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