Wellington Terrace seniors’ home opened in 1971

The last column de­scrib­ed planning and efforts by county council to expand or replace the Well­ington County Home, in late 1965 and 1966. The process bogged down with changing dir­ections from the provincial government.
The county hired architect Donald Skinner late in 1966. He sketched several propo­s­als over the next two years, none of got provincial approval. A directive from there that muni­cipal water and sewer were required for new construction led the county to buy land from Robert Foote, at the northeast edge of Elora. By the sum­mer of 1969, escalating construc­tion costs depleted provincial funds available – and that meant more de­lays.
County council asked Skin­ner to continue on the plans, so they could be ready when funding was available. Then, a surprise arrived from Toronto. On July 25, minister John Yaremko issued approval for the funding for a new facility. With the an­nounc­ement came further de­sign requirements, but Skinner said they could be worked out in six weeks. The cost escalated to $2,330,000, an advance of 33% from the $1.75-million tag only two years earlier.
Such increases  would rattle anyone in­volved in public affairs today, but in the days of the late 1960s few people even blinked. Provincial revenues were in­creas­ing rapidly, and the gov­ernment ex­panded programs to use the cash.
Other counties in Ontario were replacing homes for the aged to comply with new standards and for overcrowding. Such facilities were of special interest in the late 1960s. Officials added new funding to the grant programs, and in­creas­ed operating grants by 400% between 1966 and 1971.
Another characteristic of provincial officials then was the habit of micro-managing the construction of such facilities. Arguments about minor details delayed calling of tenders for seven months. The call went out in Feb­ruary 1970. The low bid for the general contracting was that of Len Ariss Con­struc­tion, at $1,736,000. Combined with smaller con­tracts, archi­tectural and engineering fees, and site preparation, the cost was $2,100,000- $230,000 below estimates a year earlier, and a rare piece of good news for councillors.
By then, the county had socked away more than $300,000 for the project. With the 50% provincial grant, the county would need to issue $700,000 of de­ben­tures. When approval for that came May 7, 1970, the Ariss crew was on the site. In the meantime, a contro­versy arose over the name. There were several sugges­tions, including Welling­ton Heights, Welling­ton Manor, Well­ington Braes, and Oak Hill. When council chose Well­ington Haven many disap­proved.
Their argument was “Haven” suggested a last resort and had negative conno­tations. The local pastoral association was particularly vocal for a change. Opponents suc­ceeded. By opening day, the name was Wellington Terrace.
That was one battle lost by Elora Reeve Art Hoffer, who headed the county’s committee responsible for the facility. He preferred Wellington Heights.
Len Ariss pushed construc­tion work through the summer and fall of 1970, though a plumbers’ strike caused some de­lays. By year end, the build­ing was closed in and heated, allowing the interior to proceed quickly. By November, work was back on schedule, and over the winter work proceeded quick­ly with no wrinkles.
At Elora’s nomination meet­ing in November 1970. Hoffer claimed that the economic benefits to Elora would be the same as for a small industry, but others expressed doubts be­cause the home would not gen­erate the tax revenue of a factory.
With completion of the building in sight, there was an­other development. In March 1971, the Wellington Home’s physician, Dr. J.H. O’Brien, of Elora, handed in his resig­na­tion. Appointed in 1935, he was the third doctor to fill the post. The earlier physicians were Dr. George Orton and Dr. Abraham Groves.
There was another change in July, with the appointment of Cliff Oakman as administrator of the new facility, succeeding Wilfred Roszell. He had ambi­tious plans for the new home to be a focus of the larger com­munity. He wanted to establish a day program of activities there for retired people who were still living in their own homes, and invited Boy Scouts and Girl Guides to adopt a “grandparent” at the home.
The Ariss firm and the vari­ous subcontractors completed their work by August 1971, many months ahead of the estimated date of March 1972.  At the opening ceremony on Aug. 31, 1971, Reeve Hoffer and Wellington County offi­cials were delighted and re­lieved that the job was finally done. It had taken more than six years and endless frustra­tions to provide better accom­modations for the senior resi­dents of Wellington County.
Residents of the old build­ing who could walk hopped on a bus for the short trip to the new Wellington Terrace. Others who were bed-ridden came by ambulance. Some looked for­ward to better quarters, but others were reluctant to leave the familiar surroundings that had been their home for many years in some cases.
Oldest to move was 103-year-old Mrs. McIntyre. She was very impressed with the new building, but wondered if it “wasn’t all a waste of mon­ey.”
The 176-bed facility cost roughly $2,200,000 to build, or $12,500 per bed, exclusive of furnishings and other ameni­ties. The comparable figure for the 1957 addition at the old site had been roughly $5,400. The cost of public buildings had es­calated at far above the rate of inflation, and that trend would continue with the new building, opened in May 2006.
Discussions as to the fate of the old facility began well be­fore moving day. Ideas includ­ed rental of space for offices, moving Wellington County’s administration functions from Guelph, and mothballing the facility for later use as a retire­ment facility. Some wanted the building to be demolished. Mr. and Mrs. Wilf Roszell agreed to stay on as resident caretakers until a decision was made.
The eventual utilization of the old building  was an ambi­tious one. Successful lobbying of county councillors by Wo­men’s Institute members and history buffs led to the decision to renovate the old building for use as the Wellington County Museum, which had, by then, outgrown its cramped facilities in a county-owned building on Elora’s Mill Street. The 1957 addition was converted to offi­ces, occupied principally by the Ministry of Agriculture.
But, as the saying goes, is a story for another time.

Stephen Thorning