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            St. Eleanora's Home c. 1934

 St. Eleanora's Home

The First Free Catholic Convalescent Home in U.S.1

St. Eleanora’s Convalescent Home for poor Mothers opened in Yonkers Park, now Crestwood, in 1901. The Home was situated in this scenic area of northeast Yonkers, on 200 acres of countryside along Scarsdale Road known as the "Iselin Farm." 2

               Eleanora O'Donnell Iselin  by John Singer Sargent St. Eleanora’s Home was a private institution built by Adrian Iselin as a Memorial to his deceased wife, Eleanora O’Donnell Iselin. Supported by the Iselin Family, whose residence was on Davenport Neck in New Rochelle, it was operated by the Sisters of Charity of New York City.

St. Eleanora’s was the first free Catholic Convalescent Home in the United States, and was built to provide care for mothers unable to afford post-maternity services. Social Services at the end of the 19th Century began recognizing the needs to do more that just care for orphaned children and the scope of charitable institutions had to be expanded. Women who had given childbirth in the local hospitals were often discharged too soon due to finances or the need to turn over the beds for the critically ill. Women of little means were too-often immediately returned to a life of drudgery after childbirth, jeopardizing their own health as well as the well being of the child.

Adrian Iselin and his daughter, Georgine,3 (Georgiana) recognizing this problem facing poor women, saw an opportunity to become involved in, what certainly was at the time, an innovative form of social service. Georgine chose the site utilizing land her Father had purchased as a watershed for his New Rochelle Water Company.4 The water company at this time owned quite a bit of land in the area, actually creating a large reservoir fed by the Troublesome Brook.5

            Entrance to St. Eleanora's        Home c 1949

It is easy to understand why Georgine selected this site over all of her Father’s many properties, as it was one of great beauty. Running along Scarsdale Road and bordered by a rambling fieldstone fence, it possessed rolling hills and flower-filled meadows bisected by the gurgling Troublesome brook, which then had become the overflow from the reservoir as it fell over a picturesque waterfall wending its way to the Bronx River. On the northwest side of the brook a stately row of chestnut trees was planted following a path up the hill, while below them black and white cows could be found grazing contentedly in the meadow.6

Miss Iselin asked the Sisters of St. Frances de Paul to staff and manage the convalescent home. Together they planned a two-week trial program of rest and country air, which they hoped would make the difference between the success and failure of the medical treatment the hospital had provided. Together they envisioned arrangements for 27 adult patients, 19 children, and nurseries for about 8 children, with accommodations for an additional 4 Mothers with infants. The Main Building, constructed of local greystone and marble from the famed Tuckahoe Marble Quarry, had 33 rooms and was finished in 1901 at a cost of around $50,000. In May of that year Archbishop Corrigan conducted the dedication ceremony.

           Post Card from St. Eleanora's     - Click for details

There were ten Sisters of Charity who had been brought from their hospital facilities in New York and Westchester to operate the facility. Sister Mary Isadore Morgan was the first Mother Superior. All operating costs for the facility (including patient expenses) were assumed by the Iselin Family and paid through the "Iselin Corporation for St. Eleanora’s Home." Fresh vegetables, fruits and dairy products were brought from nearby Iselin farms in New Rochelle making it almost a self-sustaining entity.

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The Home was enlarged as children were brought up in greater numbers. In 1904 a Children’s Cottage was built to accommodate an increase in new residents (again at a cost of around $50,000). This building stood for 44 years before being closed in 1948 and later demolished. A Chapel was also built and connected by an indoor ramp to the main building. It was Christened St. Adrian’s Chapel. An Italian Priest from the Assumption Church in Tuckahoe came over to offer Mass and other Catholic religious services.

Georgine Iselin had a lifetime concern for the poor, the underfed, and the uneducated. She made many outstanding gifts to the Roman Catholic Churches of New Rochelle and Pelham. She was also responsible for the construction of Iselin Hall, New Rochelle’s first School for Nurses. For these as well as many other charitable contributions she made, she was named "Papal Countess of the Vatican." However, it wasn’t money alone that made her life’s work significant, it was the love and time which she gave to the children and her foresight in recognizing their needs. When Georgine Iselin died on June 30th, 1954 at the age of 97, the "Iselin Corporation for St. Eleanora’s" was dissolved and the property given to the Sisters of Charity, who continued on their own until 1961. It was sold to St.Vladimir’s Orthodox Church in 1962 to become their major Seminary and Headquarters in North America.

               A mealtime setting at St. Eleanora's Home for Children

 

1. Researched and written by Marguerite Aumann. Editing/photo assemblage, Stephen Rubino

2. Owned by financier/industrialist Adrian Georg Iselin (1818-1905)

3.Georgine Iselin (1857-1954)

4.Prior to this the 200-acres site was owned by Tappen Fairchild /Austin who purchased it in 1834. In 1785 it was owned by Tappen Fairchild /Austin who purchased it in 1834. In 1785 I had become the property of Jacob Smith who acquired it thru the Articles of Forfeiture after the American Revolution since it was part of a Dutch land grant to the Phillipse Family who supported the British Crown thus losing their properties to the newly-formed United States.

5. That reservoir is now known as Crestwood Lake

6. One Crestwood old-timer remembers bicycling along Scarsdale Road and looking up saw several Sisters of Charity walking down the hill beside the chestnut trees with their black and white habits flapping in the breeze - rather like a flock of penguins on a stroll. It was a wondrous site to behold

 

 

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