About Columbus Colony
Ohio Home for the Aged Deaf


Residents and staff of the original Ohio Home for the Aged Deaf


Columbus Colony Elderly Care (CCEC) was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1977. CCEC is part of a tradition of service which goes back to 1896, when the first Ohio Home for the Aged Deaf was founded.

CCEC is operated by the Ohio School
for the Deaf Alumni Association.
In addition to CCEC, the OSDAA
operates Columbus Colony Housing
(CCH) which is a 106-unit apartment

complex, and ten cottages for Deaf

persons on nearly 100-acre park-like campus.

Knowing where we began, and what we have grown into is a priceless legacy for the Deaf community. Our history begins with the opening of the Deaf school, the Ohio Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, in 1829 with three students. The school, on Broad and High Street, eventually grew to size that required a move to larger facilities, on Old Town Street and Washington Ave., this location was expanded as the school grew.

August 30 and 31, 1870 the first reunion, called the Ohio Deaf-Mute Alumni Association, was held at the school. The convention was held at the school and was lead by Gilbert O. Fay, the superintendent of the school, and The Reverend Collin Stone, principal of the American Asylum at Hartford Connecticut. The event attracted a number of leaders from different states.

Rutherford B. Hayes, Governor of Ohio was present and gave a speech. He later became the 19th President of the United States (1877-1881).

During the reunion, the first officers and board members were elected. Samuel Flenniken, was the first president, he was also one of the first three students at the school in 1829. A constitution and by-laws were written. The goals to promote the welfare and lifestyle of the Deaf community were established. The members had to pay a quarter for the annual membership. The organization was chartered in 1885. The alumni association held a reunion every two or three years. Each year several hundred people attended.

In 1889, at the 7th reunion, someone brought up a concern about several Deaf people who lived in different county homes in Ohio. They lived in isolation because the staff and other residents were not able to communicate with them. The Deaf people were not able to be placed outside their county because of regulations and money matters.

There was a lot of hot debate about this issue, and it was decided to set-up a committee to explore many alternatives for the situation. The committee was made up of: Robert Patterson, principal at OSD; Robert MacGregor, a high school teacher at OSD (he helped establish the first National Association of the Deaf convention in Cincinnati in 1880, and was elected the first NAD president); A.B. Grenner; Albert Schory; W. Zorn; C.W. Charles and others. At the Alumni reunion they decided to draw a plan for a home for the Deaf.

The committee made their report to the members during the 1892 reunion. They had studied different county homes to see how they were run, and decided they could set-up a home for the Deaf. They recommended that the association donate $500 (from the treasury) to start a “Home Fund.” However, within an hour $2,414 had been pledged by individual members.

OHAD as it stands today off Sunbury Road in Westerville, OH
OHAD as it stands today off Sunbury Road in Westerville, OH

The committee looked for property for a long time. They didn’t find anything until OSD superintendent Rev. W.S. Eagleson informed the board that Central College was for sale, located on Sunbury Road in Westerville. The location was found to be suitable and the surrounding property was also available for the alumni to buy and use for a farm to support the home. The land, 15 acres, and buildings were purchased for $3,300. The college was moved to Wooster, Ohio. The Fairchild building is the only original building still in existence. The building was named after Mr. Fairchild, the only student who graduated from Central College.

In 1895, the members attending the 9th reunion went to see the property for the first time. They traveled to Dempsey Road on a street car and then rode in wagons the remaining two miles.

The board was concerned about the money that would be needed for repairs, furniture, kitchen equipment, water supply and other necessities that would make the building habitable. Organizations like the Ladies Aid Society from different cities all over Ohio helped with fund-raising. Later, another 15 acres were acquired for $1,000.

In 1896, about 200 people (equally divided hearing and Deaf) attended the opening ceremony. People came from every corner of Ohio to celebrate the opening on December 12, despite the cold weather.

The first superintendent for this national Deaf home was Mr. And Mrs. A.G. Byers. They managed the institution until October 1, 1909.

The state of Ohio’s General Assembly passed O.L. 93, page 212, in 1898, allowing Deaf people to be transferred to the Ohio Home for the Aged and Infirm Deaf from other counties, at the same expense as the county.

In 1908, 85 ½ acres were acquired adjoining the property, for $7,000.

In 1921, another 41 acres were purchased for $4,000 bringing the total to 156 acres. The general farm was self-supporting, giving the residents everything they needed including livestock, crops, fruit trees and vegetable gardens. The residents kept the farm rolling. The students from Ohio School for the Deaf would take the trolley and then hay wagons to the Ohio Home. The boys would harvest, doing the sowing, paint, etc. The girls would keep busy canning food, sewing clothes, clearing, etc. On Sunday afternoons OSD students would pay 10 cents for a show, the money was then used to pay utility bills.

During the World War sugar rationing made it hard on everyone. It was almost impossible to can fruits and vegetables. So, large amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables were served.
In 1922, Wornstaff Hall was opened to house men, the cost was $26,662. It was named after Albertus Wornstaff, of Wooster, Ohio. He was an OSD graduate who passed away at an early age, his father donated $5,000 to the Ohio Home.

The trees that had to be cut down to allow for crops were sent to the mill and the wood was used to repair barns and build small buildings.

The cows produced a lot of milk which was sent to a dairy to be processed. It was then returned to OHAD for the residents. Any surplus milk products were sold to produce more income.

A lot of support was given by organizations and individuals to offset the expense of the home. Dr. Edward Abernathy, OSD superintendent, was an honorary member of the Board of Managers, he collected over $200 from his staff. One of the most supportive advocates and best fund-raisers was Augustus J. Beckert, who served the Board of Managers for more than 40 years and more than 20 years as treasurer for OHAD.

Mr. Beckert, who was a student supervisor, encouraged every student at OSD to donate to the home or help with fund-raising. There were many former students who were very involved with the old home.

The organizations in Ohio who regularly supported or furnished one or more rooms in the home were:

  • Columbus Ladies Aid Society
  • Columbus Advance Society
  • Clionian Society (students at school for the Deaf)
  • Cleveland Ladies Aid Society
  • Ohio Home Circle, Cincinnati
  • Canton Society of the Deaf
  • Piqua Aid Society
  • Toledo Ladies Aid Society
  • Eastern Ohio Advance Society, Bellaire
  • Dayton Ladies Aid Society
  • Springfield Silent Club
  • Anderson Club, Cincinnati
  • Akron Society of the Deaf
  • Ohio Divisions of the NFSD
  • Youngstown Silent Club


There were two boards: Ohio School for the Deaf Alumni Association’s Board of Governors who owned the old home and property, all members were former OSD students. The other one was the Board of Managers who worked to oversee the operation of OHAD or old home, members who were Deaf and hearing (friend or relatives of Deaf people, not required to be former OSD students).

In the mid 1950’s, the state banned resident-labor in retirement homes. The farm was shut down. Since all food had to be purchased from outside, the costs went sky-high, and the home began loosing money. Some residents were welfare recipients, and the money helped, but there still wasn’t enough money. The alumni association used their funds to pay the difference for many years. August 31, 1958 was the day the 32 bed semi-skilled care building was dedicated, it cost $165,000.

The Ohio General Assembly set regulations for all nursing homes in Ohio and the existing OHAD facilities did not meet state code. The hallways were too small, the doors needed to be larger and had wood frames, and a water sprinkler system needed to be installed along with many other items. It was determined the building was too old and too many changes needed to be made to meet the state codes. Some alumni members attended the White House Conference on Aging to explore sources for funding a new building. They recommended an application for funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

On October 20, 1977 ground was broken for the building of Columbus Colony Elderly Care (CCEC), a 100 bed skilled care nursing home. Completed in the fall of 1979, CCEC is under regulations by the Ohio Department of Health and dually certified in Medicare and Medicaid.
In 1994, we built another 50 beds onto the nursing home so the total is now 150 beds. The new wing was opened in the fall of the 1995.

In September 2009, the first ground was broken for a brand new therapy room extension and remodel for CCEC.  The extension added a 3,000 square foot Rehabilitation gym, a larger dining space, a patio and sunroom.  Also included were additional nursing units at the ends of each hall, expanded space for activities, and a café to serve the residents snacks and drinks.  Work was finished in February of 2010 and was celebrated by hosting the Westerville Chamber of Commerce.