Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan
|Dallas Bogan on 30 August 2004|
|original article by Dallas Bogan|
|Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan|
Originally, up until 1831, paupers in Warren County were in custody of the
individual township trustees. These officers contracted out for the upkeep of
the unfortunate poor to the lowest responsible bidders. However, public notice
had to be given within the confines of the law to this effect.
A farm for the County purchased these purposes in 1829 and, in the same year, construction of a two-story brick infirmary was begun, dimensions being 56 feet long and 30 wide. Smith Ludlum was the assigned building contractor.
A large section was added to the structure in 1836 and, in 1845, a small brick building was constructed which provided separate provisions for insane persons that were cared for by the County.
Eleven paupers were admitted to the Warren County Infirmary on opening day, April 13, 1831; total number for the year was twenty-two.
The first Infirmary Board of Directors was James Cowan, John Osborn and Joseph Kibby. The County Commissioners appointed these gentlemen at their June session in 1831.
Robert Porter was the first Superintendent of the Infirmary. Other early Superintendents were: A. Thomas; Bonham Fox; Aaron Stevens, 1841-1854; Joseph Jameson, 1854-1858; John Pauly, 1858- 1865; William G. Smith, 1865-1872; A.D. Strickler, 1872-1875; E.F. Irons, 1875-1881; and David Glascock, 1881.
On December 31, 1866, the Infirmary building was almost totally destroyed by fire.
The next building erected was commenced in 1867, and was the largest of all the County buildings. Capt. William H. Hamilton, who served as a County Commissioner at the time, drew up the plans; he also served as superintendent of its construction.
The building was a three-story complex with a nine-foot high basement under the whole facility. Overall dimensions were 90 x 98 feet with an open court in the center, these dimensions being 36 x 46 feet. It was of a brick structure and contained about 70 apartments. Sleeping room dimensions were 12 x 10 1/2 feet. Total construction cost was $51,459. Again, on November 2, 1915, a fire completely destroyed the Warren County Infirmary, burning it to the ground. At the time there were 60 inmates and some invalids, but everyone escaped without the slightest injury.
Auditor Mounts notified the County Commissioners of the fire unto which they provided outstanding service.
The Oregonia Bridge Company, after hearing the tragic news, sent their entire work force to the scene to assist in the rescue. Marshall Fraser and his Lebanon work force laid down their tools and immediately rendered aid.
Loss to the Infirmary was estimated to be between $50,000 and $60,000; insurance on the building was about $25,000.
As quickly as possible, Superintendent Thompson and the County Commissioners arranged temporary quarters for the inmates in the old Maplewood Sanatorium. Another shelter was established at the Maple Farm hotel. However, many of them were taken to the homes of their relatives, while some were housed in adjoining counties.
The Commissioners afterward conditioned the old separate insane quarters to temporarily house the Superintendent and his family.
Strong westerly winds caused the sparks from the Infirmary to travel a considerable distance and ignite the large barn of Arthur Ross. An alarm was sounded, but to no avail, for the flames had completely consumed the building by the time help arrived, he losing his crops and farming equipment. Mr. Ross was severely burned trying to save his livestock, from which a horse and one cow perished.
Promptly, the County voted to acquire bonds for building purposes to the amount of $65,000 for a new structure. Judge Willard Wright of the Common Pleas Court appointed four citizens as a Building Commission to act in accordance with the County Commissioners.
These appointees were Judge J.A. Runyan and C.C Eulass of Lebanon, Howard Conover of Franklin, and Elias Oglesbee of Waynesville. The elected County Commissioners at this time were Col. A.C. Baker, Joseph Watkins and Wm. D. Corwin.
County Prosecutor, Dean F. Stanley, was the legal administrator for the involved parties. The Covell Construction Company of Michigan was assigned to construct the new building. Architects for the project were Weber, Werner and Atkins of Cincinnati.
The contract was authorized and the first shovel of dirt was cast on June 19, 1916. Acceptance of the new building by the Commissioners was on July 19, 1917, just 13 months after construction began, a marvel in time to say the least. (By the way, this building was constructed as a fireproof structure.)
On September 16, fifty-five inmates walked into one of the finest buildings for this purpose in Ohio. This structure, the present one, is located on the site of the old one, on East Street, just south of downtown Lebanon.
Facing the west, the main entrance is in the exact center of the front. Extending from north to south, the building was constructed as 160 feet. At each end there is a spacious porch 30 by 36 feet. The north porch was to be the ladies space while the south side was the men's porch. And, accordingly, the lady's quarters were situated in the north portion of the building while the men's housing was in the south section.
As one enters the main entrance, the public reception room was located to the right. Next comes the main corridor, which runs north and south. This hallway entered into the women's' and men's' divisions. Across the corridor was located the kitchen and dining room of the Superintendent, his assistants and employees.
In the basement area was housed the large general kitchen, hot water plant, separate dining rooms for men and women, refrigerating plant, store room, milk cellar, unheated storage room for fruits and vegetables, etc. Artificial light was not needed in this area because of its superior arrangement.
The second floor was said to have been of a spotless appearance. Spacious rooms for the accommodation of the Superintendent and his family, and for the hired help, were located there.
A well-lighted chapel for religious purposes was located in the northwest corner of the second floor. Chairs adorned the surroundings as well as a small reed organ.
Housed on the third floor were the hospital arrangements. Within was an operating room, a private room for the surgeons, five wards for general use, and one for contagious diseases. This facility was not just for the impoverished, but at a small price, for the use of the public as well.
Superintendent William N. Thompson and his wife, the Matron, received their appointments, March 1, 1913. Judge J.A. Runyan gave high praise to the couple. The Superintendent was said to be always "upon the job and the interests of Warren County are always uppermost on his mind." Judge Runyan also said of Mrs. Thompson, the Matron, that she was an ideal official. She was described "as a veritable mother to the unfortunates who must live with them." In just one year she made 63 yards of rag carpet, which would be a credit to any home.
The Infirmary building now houses the county offices of the Board of Education, Board of Elections, Children Services, Human Services and Veteran Services.
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This page created 30 August 2004 and last updated
28 September, 2008
© 2004 Arne H Trelvik All rights reserved