Looking Back: The History of Albright
The history of Albright Care Services' continuing care retirement communities dates back to the late 1700s when the United Evangelical Church was founded by Jacob Albright (1759-1808), a tile-maker from Lancaster, PA. Originally known as “Albright’s People," the United Evangelical Church was given the name, Evangelischen Gemeinschaft (Evangelical Association) by German-speaking individuals in 1803. Later, as a more organized Protestant Christian denomination, the Evangelischen Gemeinschaft was renamed The Evangelical Church.
In 1916, the Trustees of the United Evangelical Church purchased the Ross Mansion (formerly the home of Eli Slifer) and property known as Delta Place, just north of Lewisburg, PA. This site included the 20-room mansion, two farmhouses, several outbuildings and 190 acres of well-cultivated land. It was here that the United Evangelical Home for Old People and Orphans would be established.
On May 14, 1916, Dr. Abraham and Mrs. Nellie Winter and family moved into the mansion to become the Home’s first superintendent and matron, respectively. Mr. Joseph and Mrs. Lizzie Loyer were the first senior residents, moving in on May 31, 1916.
The orphanage building was completed in 1921 and the orphanage remained in operation until 1959. With the advent of foster care and other government programs, the orphanage model fell into disfavor. When the orphanage closed, the two remaining children were transferred to the Evangelical United Brethren Orphanage at Quincy, PA. During its 38-year history, more than 250 children called the Evangelical Orphanage, “home.” Every July the “orphanage kids,” as they refer to themselves, hold a reunion at RiverWoods.
In 1926, the Evangelical Hospital opened, and was originally located in one wing of a newly constructed dormitory for seniors. The Hospital continued as an outreach of the Evangelical Home until 1949 when ownership was transferred to a separate community-based corporation. In 1953, the new Evangelical Community Hospital was constructed on the west side of Route 15, on land donated by the Evangelical Home. Today, “Evan,” as it is often called, is one of the most highly regarded and comprehensive primary healthcare facilities in the Central Susquehanna Valley.
With the Home’s mission fully dedicated to serving older people, the board of directors began a long-term campus development program. In 1968, the union of the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) and Methodist Churches created The United Methodist Church. Prior to 1968, a cooperative effort between EUBs and Methodists in Central Pennsylvania had begun that resulted in the completion of a 102-bed, state-of-the-art nursing care center on the site of the Evangelical Home in 1970. The corporate name of the organization was changed to Lewisburg United Methodist Homes. Later, in an effort to better reflect its mission, the name was then changed to United Methodist Continuing Care Services (UMCCS).
Modernization and expansion on the Lewisburg campus remains an ongoing process. Between 1969 and 1989, another 100 beds were added to the nursing care center and new residential living units were constructed. The 71 apartments in Riverview Manor were completed in two phases. Sixty-four Garden Cottages, providing independent-living options for active seniors, were also constructed during this time.
Several of the oldest buildings on campus have been renovated and converted for other uses. In 1976, the original Victorian mansion was restored and opened as the Slifer House Museum. That same year the old orphanage (named Gamber House in honor of Miss Hattie Gamber, who began work at the orphanage in 1924 and retired as Matron in 1959) reopened as a retreat center. Today, Gamber Office Building has a new life as the corporate headquarters of Albright Care Services.
In 1980, the Board of Directors agreed to co-sponsor with the Watsontown Area Senior Citizens Housing Corporation development of a HUD 202/8 housing project for senior citizens. Warrior Run Manor and its 75 subsidized apartments for low income elderly and the physically handicapped opened in Watsontown, PA in 1984. Warrior Run Manor, Inc. owns the building. Funds to operate the project are received from HUD, and Albright Care Services provides the management.
In the mid-1980s, a group of clergy and laypersons organized as United Methodist Care of York requested assistance from Lewisburg United Methodist Homes to create housing for seniors and a nursing care facility in York, PA. Construction began in 1990 and York United Methodist Home opened in 1992 featuring 71 Garden Cottages, a 64-bed nursing care center, and a 66-bed personal care facility.
In 1996, market research conducted through the Strategic Planning Committee of the Board of Trustees revealed that people found it difficult to retain the name United Methodist Continuing Care Services. It also revealed that many people (mistakenly) thought that the facilities and services of UMCCS were open only to members of The United Methodist Church.
To address this issue, corporate and facility names were changed once more. UMCCS became ACS. The Lewisburg facility became RiverWoods Senior Living Community. The York facility is now Normandie Ridge Senior Living Community.
In 2002 and 2003, both Normandie Ridge and RiverWoods completed expansion projects. Manchester Court opened at Normandie Ridge in October 2002. RidgeCrest Apartments opened at RiverWoods in July 2003. Both facilities feature residential living apartments and a community center. The community centers include a pool, fitness center, library with computers, restaurant, cafe and more!
In 2005, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare designated Albright Care Services as the provider of LIFE programs in the Lycoming County and Lancaster County service areas. LIFE (Living Independently for Elders) is Pennsylvania's version of the national Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). Designed as a co-operative effort between Medicare, Medicaid, and the provider, LIFE ministers to the needs of the oldest, frailest, poorest in the service area. The Albright LIFE Centers opened in Williamsport in June 2008 and Lancaster in October 2008. A third Albright LIFE Center opened in Lebanon in November 2011.