Historic Century House slated to close

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SALEM, Ohio — The Century House, which has been an independent living facility for the elderly since 1888, will close by the end of 2015.

The all-volunteer board of managers in consultation with the Century House trustees made the decision in early July and then notified employees, residents, and their families.

“It was with heavy hearts that the board made the decision, but it is the correct decision given the Century House’s finances,” said Virginia Wilms, president of the Century House board of managers.

Over the years, the board agreed to keep the residents’ room and board costs as low as possible so it would be affordable for people with modest pensions.

Endowment dwindled

Over the years the board used the Century House’s endowment to cover the difference between its operating costs and what residents paid, however, the policy of subsidizing residents’ costs created significant challenges following the downturn in the stock market in 2000 and 2008, and the endowment will soon be exhausted, Wilms said.

The four current residents have been advised to find alternate housing by the end of November. The nine employees have been asked to continue working through December.

Will be sold

After the residents leave, the employees will prepare the antiques and other contents of the house for an auction and the house for sale.

In accordance with the agreement that created the house, when the Century House ceases operations any funds left after final bills are paid will be dispersed to a non-profit organization in Salem that does work similar to the Century House. Which entity will receive the funds is among the many details the board of managers will resolve in the coming months, Wilms said.

Background

The Century House’s 1887 incorporation papers state that it was created for women of Quaker background. The house’s mission was later expanded to include serving women affiliated with other churches. Trustees continue to be affiliated with Salem’s churches, but residents are no longer required to have a local church connection. In recent decades, the Century House has been open to both men and women over the age of 55.

It operates with 501(c)(3) status as a non-profit, independent living facility. The all-volunteer board of managers receives management guidance from the trustees.

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