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Posted on November 5, 2021 at 2:55 PM by Melissa Dalton
The Grand Reopening of the Collier Chapel was held today, which is part of the original Ohio Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Orphans Home (OS&SO), later known as the Ohio Veterans Children’s Home (OVCH). With the knowledge that we would be attending this event, I wanted to look back on previous blog posts to see what we have written regarding the OS&SO Home… surprisingly, I found very little! So, this week our blog covers a brief history of the facility, and its contributions to our region.
In his second inaugural address, President Lincoln called on each state to care for the widows and children of fallen Union soldiers. After the end of the Civil War, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was established to support veterans of the War. It was the GAR that lobbied for the government to provide services and support for the families and children of the soldiers. In 1869, the organization opened the Ohio Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Orphans Home in Xenia, Ohio, and in 1870, the State assumed control of the Home. At that time, the OS&SO Home was relocated to a 240-acre farm on Home Avenue (Fig 1). The OS&SO Home was self-sufficient operation, with a farm, dairy barn, hospital, power/heat plant, gymnasium, school, banquet hall, chapel, and residence halls (Fig 2).
Fig 1. Map of the OS&SO Grounds, 1900 (Greene County Archives)
Fig 2. The Hospital on the OS&SO Home Campus in 1901 (Greene County Archives)
The residents were well-educated (Fig 3), and provided an opportunity to learn various trades, such as wood carving, knitting, dress making, blacksmithing, farming, butchering/slaughtering, etc. They also were able to participate in extra-curriculars such as choir, orchestra, band, and athletics. The students started their own paper in 1876 called the Home Weekly. At the age of eighteen, the resident was released from the Home.
Fig 3. OS&SO Home Graduates, Class of 1900 (Greene County Archives)
The site is now known as the home to Athletes in Action and Legacy Christian Academy (as well as some other ministries). The administration building, also the main building for the Home, was built in 1870 (Fig 4). The building is now the home of the Athletes in Action headquarters. Athletes in Action also operates the former Roosevelt Cottage, which was a dormitory. It was been renovated and is now named Brown Family Retreat Center.
Fig 4. OS&SO Home Administration Building, 1900 (Greene County Archives)
Collier Chapel was built in 1873, and was named Chaplain George W. Collier, who is also credited with proposing the idea of the Home to the GAR. The Collier Chapel was renovated in 1994, but had fallen into disrepair. A $1.2 million renovation project was just completed on the Collier Chapel and cemetery, and today, the current owners hosted the grand reopening (Fig 5).
Fig 5. Collier Chapel, 2013 (Wikimedia Commons)
The Lincoln Building was built in 1944 and was formerly the Woodrow Wilson High School. It now is the home of the Legacy Christian Academy (LCA). LCA also utilizes the Barnett Building (c. 1931), which was used for the trades. Today it is still used for classroom space and offices. The Gymnasium (c. 1924) was the home of the OS&SO Home Cadets sports teams, but now houses the LCA Knights sports teams.
The site witnessed changes throughout its 126 years in operation, and was home to roughly 14,000 children. Buildings and property were added as the resident population grew. The State also expanded the effort of the Home, and accepted children of veterans from any military conflict. In 1978, the OS&SO Home was renamed to the Ohio Veterans Children’s Home. The OVCH remained in operation until 1995, when the Home's doors were shuttered.
This really just provides some highlights of the OSSO/OVCH site and operations. If you are interested in learning more, we have a copy of The History of the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphans’ Home at Xenia, Ohio, 1868-1963, by Edward Wakefield Hughes and William Clyde McCracken (edited by McKinley Warth in 1914, with further edits by Lloyd Brewster in 1924). We also have a copy of the 1900 Annual Report from the Home, which was included in the 1901 Greene County Courthouse Time Capsule (which is where we got most of the images for this blog post). It has been digitized and is available on Flickr. I also recommend that you check out our Facebook page for photographs from the Collier Chapel Grand Reopening!
Until Next Time!
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