The Hillcrest Children’s Home, of Wheelersburg, was built in 1920 with the first 57 children moving in the year of 1921. The home, which housed thousands of children, saw the last one leave on Feb. 25, 1970, 47 years ago. The building was razed the following year.
“Hillcrest was not an orphanage; rather, it was a home for neglected and dependent children,” former resident and advocate Rose Mowery stated. “In absence of a traditional family, the children of Hillcrest became each other’s family, creating bonds that lasted a lifetime.”
Those children that joined together through good and bad were remembered Friday as a historical marker was placed at the start of Hillcrest Drive.
“The children of Hillcrest have waited so many years to be validated,” Mowery stated in a ceremony revealing the marker.
Speaking at the ceremony was Bob Dawson, who grew up at Hillcrest as the child of the Superintendent.
“For 50 years, until its abandonment in 1970, Hillcrest was more than a handsome brick structure. It as the first home that many children knew or remembered,” Dawson stated. “For some, it was a temporary residence while family conditions that caused displacement were confronted. For others, it was a longer-term refuge that lasted a few months or a few years. For still others, it became an extended family environment that began as a young child and endured into or through high school.”
Dawson lived in the home from 1947 to 1953. Though he actually lived separately on the grounds in an apartment with his mother, he spent much of his time with the other kids.
“When the dinner bell rang, I had to come inside and wash up. I played in the orchard, snuck off to Lick Run occasionally to swim, and spent a lot of time on the playground and on the dirt basketball court with all the other kids,” the friend to Hillcrest stated. “And, I was part of Troop 5 that raised and lowered the flag each day in front of those grand columns that looked out toward Kentucky.”
Former Hillcrest members in attendance Friday smiled and hung on his words as they too remembered spending their days the same way.
Dawson explained that life at Hillcrest was not always perfect. There were illnesses, deaths, accidents, runaways, unsavory staff members and despair caused by parents who did not visit.
“But, there was a community of support within Hillcrest that helped through the rough spots,” he confirmed.
That support system was even present Friday as many old residents sat close through the ceremony, even those that have since moved from the State.
Commissioner Bryan Davis was present and gave a proclamation recognizing that day as April 15, 2017 as Scioto County’s Day of Prayer for Neglected and Dependent Children.
“When our community comes together under one mind and one voice, we can accomplish great things,” Davis stated.
He added that the day’s recognition was issued in honor of the children of Hillcrest, in the pursuit of awareness for neglected and dependent children (more than 200 in protective services in Scioto County) and in the effort of improving the quality of life for all children.
Andy Verhoff with the Ohio History Connection’s Historical Markers Program explained that when Mowery first contacted him about a marker for Hillcrest, he was excited to hear more.
“It would be a great place for a historical marker,” he remembers thinking. “The thing that really stood out about this application was it’s about a really locally significant subject.”
Verhoff explained that he enjoyed hearing from Mowery about what the home meant for so many local children.
“It’s one of those markers for a place that doesn’t exist anymore but at one time meant a lot to this community and still does,” he commented.
He added that the real fun starts now as the marker generates interest in Hillcrest, a place that some never knew existed, many have forgotten but some could never forget.
The Ohio Historical Markers Program started in 1957. Now, in its 60th year, the first marker ever placed still stands. There are a total of 1605 markers standing or in production.
“The markers program gives communities an opportunity to share a part of their history,” Verhoff said.
These markers can remember buildings, people, places and events that were relevant to a community’s story.
Reach Nikki Blankeship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1930.