Elmhurst: The House of Friends

I’m 62 years old now, and when my time comes, I’m packing up and heading for this village. In fact, I’m already on the waiting list. Read on, and I’ll tell you why.

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Elmhurst, the House of Friendship, is a four-story, Victorian style mansion located in Wheeling’s Pleasant Valley. There’s never a dull moment in this 22,000 square- foot home for the elderly, and there’s no wonder. Everything from rides to the doctor, hairdressers, and the Mall, as well as transportation to various events around town, can be had for one set price per month. It’s almost like an all-inclusive vacation, minus the beach and the cabana boys. With any of the seven pricing options, everything from electricity to pest control to the Internet is supplied, as well as three hot meals per day served in a spacious dining room so elegant it would make a retired woodworker want to get back in the game.

The House of Friendship is a non-profit organization that is state accredited, even though they don’t have to be. The commitment to their clients includes a program called AMAP (Approved Medication Assistive Personnel).

As Jamie Crow, Executive Director told me: “All staff members are trained and approved by the state of West Virginia to assist our guests with their daily medication. Sad to say, some of them may find themselves forgetful in this necessity, so, under the supervision of our staff RN, we can help them and see to their long-term health.”

Yet, all is not roses at the House, There are times when a resident needs one-on-one care because of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

“When that time comes,” Jamie continued, “they receive constant care until we find a facility suitable with the family. It’s a sad day for us when we must part ways, and we hate to see them go. It’s sometimes painful, but we do it as professionally as we can.”

The story of Elmhurst is a requiem to philanthropy. First opened in 1888, it was known originally as the West Virginia Home for the Aged, and its presence in Center Market catered to elderly women as well as a temporary residence for wayward and homeless girls. In 1922, it changed directions and was open only to senior ladies, changing its name to the West Virginia Home for Aged Women.

Built in 1891, their present location was christened “Elmhurst” by its only owner, Samuel S. Bloch of Mail Pouch tobacco fame after he planted a grouping of large, elm trees himself. The Bloch family remained there until May 1940, when his children, Jesse, Harold, Dorothy, and Marilyn donated the entire property to the Home for Aged Women.

“My sisters, brother, and I,” Jesse said at the formal ceremony, “desire to make this gift with the feeling we are doing something that Father and Mother would have approved.”

Many of the residents have a well-rounded opinion of Elmhurst.

As Gladys Van Horne, former editor of the Family (now Life) Column for the Wheeling News- Register said: “If you can’t stay at home, then Elmhurst is the next best thing to being there. In my opinion, the living conditions are excellent and very sanitary. The food is good, and a vast array of carefully planned in-house activities will keep one very busy. I miss my home, but I am very happy here.”

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Springtime at Elmhurst is always a beautiful time of year. From the immaculate lawn care and expert trimming of bushes and hedges to the garden on the east side, where residents can plant their own flowers, efforts are made to keep their guests happy and in the spirit.

As six-year occupants, Henry and Naomi Hupp revealed to me: “We came here to live, not to die,” Henry said. Then the retired Comptroller for both Olgebay and Wheeling Park System threw me a curve.

“I like the bridge the most,” he said.

I looked far and wide from their balcony view of Big Wheeling Creek.

“What bridge?” I asked.

“Oh no, not that kind of bridge. It’s the card game we look forward to. We play here on selected nights, visit with our neighbors, and hob-nob with the staff who are, we think, the best around. They look after us in a special way. We’re very satisfied here.”

In the summer months a well-laid path leads from the side entrance to something that caught my eye on my first visit. A tall Gazebo sits close to the water’s edge and everyone can while away the afternoon watching the fish and the ducks go by.

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To the left of it is a deck with railings that is closer to the water, and if your aim is good enough, you can even feed the duck families that ultimately gather there.

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In my humble opinion, I’ve concluded that Elmhurst is tailormade for those elderly individuals who wish to live in a setting that is everything a nursing home can’t be. I’ve been to last year’s Christmas party and noticed many of the tenants raising a glass of wine to answer the call for a toast.

Now you see why I’m on the list?



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