Few gifts have appreciated in value as much as the one given by Sarah Doolittle. Since the death of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Allen Doolittle, Sarah had been living alone in the sprawling family homestead at the corner of Bird and Baker Streets. Sarah was moved by the appeal of the Universalist Convention, and made a decision to donate her home to facilitate providing suitable care for the elderly. The Doolittle Home was chartered in 1915 and has been providing outstanding care for seniors ever since.

The Doolittle Universalist Home for Aged Persons was incorporated March 1, 1915 and soon, the first residents to benefit from a new standard of “adequate care” were comfortably settled into their rooms.

Our Dining Room in the early years
Our Dining Room in the early years

Simultaneously, an effort was started to raise funds to eventually expand the facility. The Home became a “mission” project for many Universalist churches, offering physical as well as financial support to the operation of the facility. Each year, Donation Days were held, when Universalists and others from throughout the region would visit the home, donating money and material goods, and maintaining support for the work of the mission of the facility. The Board of Trustees voted to replace the huge barn with a three-story structure that would mirror the original part of the homestead, and provide additional rooms for residents. They would connect the two sections of building with a sunroom and dining room. A large kitchen was installed in the basement.

The expanded Doolittle Home was opened for visitors in January 1932, and several hundred people toured the facility. At their first meeting in the new home, the Board of Trustees noted that the expansion had been accomplished for $37,000, considerably less than original estimates, and had been paid in cash from the building fund.

Our Sunroom in the early years
Our Sunroom in the early years

In those early days, residents attended to light housekeeping duties and worked in the kitchen preparing meals or canning vegetables for use in the winter. The profits from selling needlework done by the ladies paid for a daily newspaper, tuning the piano, and using the taxi for trips in the area, leaving a balance of $110.00 in the bank. Men living in the home helped with maintenance and were often engaged in the basement workshop, building birdhouses for the yard.

While any sprawling wood-frame complex needs constant attention, it would be 30 years before the Trustees felt a need for further expansion. In 1963, using the same spade used for the ground breaking for the 1932 renovations, ground was broken for the addition of a single-story annex to the complex. The wing would provide facilities for a nursing unit that would accommodate nine Level III residents while the main house accommodated 24 Level IV residents. The new wing was designed around a nursing station that would provide medical coverage 24 hours per day. The wing was named for Louise L. Sailer, whose donations to the building project exceeded $144,000.

The next expansion took place outside, as the corner lot which once housed the Inman & Kimball Hat Factory was cleared for what is now called God’s Half Acre, a private park for residents of the Home. The sculptured walkways, benches, picnic area and selective plantings provide a sanctuary for quiet reflection or a leisurely stroll.

It wasn’t until 1995 when Doolittle Home was preparing to celebrate its 80th anniversary that plans were made for yet another major project. The focus was to provide a full complement of nursing service for residents while bringing the entire nine-bed unit into full compliance with continually changing state and federal regulations. The end product was a true state-of-the-art facility providing residents and their families the assurance of the highest possible level of nursing care, comfort and support. The construction was launched with a ceremonial groundbreaking by the Board of Trustees and once again, the original shovel used to break ground for the 1932 expansion was pressed into service. It addition to work on the Sailer Wing, other modernization projects were undertaken throughout the house at a cost of $1.5 million.

A commitment continues to maintain this beautify historic property and donation continue to be the main funding source to be applied to this challenge.

In 1974, The Doolittle Home was reorganized as a public charity. And is a non-profit organization organized under section 501 c (3) of the IRS code. As such, The Doolittle Home must demonstrate outside support through donations, a general solicitation and fund-raising activities. All donations are tax deductible and directly impact the lives of those we are privileged to serve.

We are grateful this information was provided to the home by Jack Authelet, our town historian.