GLENS FALLS — In November 1897, five area churches in what was then the village of Glens Falls got together to discuss how to help elderly women who couldn’t live on their own.
These women, many of them domestic maids, were aging and needed some place to live.
The churches — Christ Church Methodist, First Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church, Church of the Messiah-Episcopal and the Society of Friends — started looking for housing options for women considered “aged” or “indigent” or “infirm.”
Mary Conkling donated her home at the corner of McDonald and Warren streets to be used as the first Glens Falls Home, which opened in June of 1899.
“There were women that were aging in the community who either did not have family that could take care of them or they needed assistance in living,” said Joan Tarantino, the executive director of The Conkling Center.
The Conkling Center, named for Mary Conkling, will celebrate the 120th anniversary of the Glens Falls Home with tours of three of the church buildings on Sept. 22. The tour will start at the First Presbyterian Church at 1:15 p.m., then proceed to Christ Church Methodist and the First Baptist Church.
“You mention the Glens Falls Home,” Tarantino said, “and all of a sudden, people have connections to it.”
The grand opening of the original home in 1899 was a huge public event, with 2,000 people in attendance.
“They had a real fancy get-together at the house with an orchestra and they had hot Russian tea served in China cups and wafers,” said Marilyn Reed, program coordinator at The Conkling Center.
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Most people tend to remember the large brick house still standing at 178 Warren St. That was actually the second home.
By the time Mary Conkling died in 1901, her home had become too small to accommodate the growing list of women waiting to get in.
William McEchron, a local lumber baron, offered to build a larger home. The new 14-bedroom home cost $30,000 to build and opened in 1903. For decades, hundreds of women lived there.
In the late 1990s, the board of “the Home” recognized the need for a larger independent living facility. The board formed a partnership with The Eddy of Troy to develop and build the Glen at Hiland Meadows, completed in 2001. The women then living in the house built by McEchron were moved to the Terrace at The Glen and the brick building on Warren Street was sold.
In 2015, Glens Falls Home Inc., which had continued as a private nonprofit agency, rebranded to become The Conkling Center, honoring Mary Conkling for her long-ago generosity.
Today, The Conkling Center offers senior services, educational programs and transportation to senior citizens.
The Sept. 22 tour will end at the Conkling Center at 79 Warren St. with iced tea, lemonade and cookies. There is a $10 fee to attend the tour. Pre-registration is required by calling 518-793-1494.