Tuesday, June 12, 2012

History of the Black River Health Center Building

2013 Memorial Day Parade
passing in front of  BRHC
Was Phineas Gage taken to the Black River Health Center (BRHC) building when he was injured? What was the building before it became a health center?

To answer these questions, and help people understand the history of the building in view of the current discussions about whether the BRHC building should be tax exempt or be given to the town, the Cavendish Historical Society has prepared the following timeline:

1839: Building erected as a store by Daniel Wheeler and George Davis

1870’s Drug Store run by Walker Bent

1891 Old Stone store sold to George Mandigo and his wife for $1,500, with “the express understanding that said premises are to be fitted up immediately for hotel purposes.” Large porches were added along with a livery stable. It was named the Hotel Elliott in 1902.

1908 Hotel Elliot burns

1912 Elliott building was for sale. Run as a boarding house by H.D. Sanders

1917 Gay Brothers buy the building, used first for storage and then as a hotel.

1928 Leased as the Cavendish Inn. Operated for the next 20 years catering to Mill workers and teachers.

1956 Physician serving the Cavendish/Proctorsville area dies. Two fatal car accidents occurred and Cavendish found they could not rely on Ludlow for medical coverage. Community leaders meet with the University of Vermont Medical School about the situation. They were advised to equip a medical office and then solicit a physician. Kenwood Mills, who purchased Gay Brothers Mills and its holdings in 1951, donated the stone building to help form the new Black River Health Center. Members of the community donated their time to renovate the building. Workers at Kenwood Mills had $1 a week withheld from their pay to help for the establishment of the Health Center.

1957: Dr. Eugene (Gene) Bont and Dr. Lawrence Bixby set up their practice in the building.

1970's: A non profit status [501-©-3] was obtained in order to seek Rural Health Initiative funds and designation. Thanks to the federal program, BRHC was able to run a satellite office in Ludlow, which had a strong prevention focus. 

1988: Dr. Bont and his wife Phyllis Bont, a nurse practitioner, leave BRHC to work at Albany Medical Center.

Over the ensuing years, various medical groups tried to maintain a health center but were not successful. The Visiting Nurses Association (VNA) was housed there for a short while. The longest standing occupant since the Bonts left was Opportunities in Learning (OIL), a school for students whose needs were better met outside the traditional classroom. The facility currently houses three mental health counselors.

The delivery of healthcare has changed considerably since the arrival of the Bonts in 1957. However, the Ludlow Health Center (LHC), which is part of Springfield Hospital’s Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) designation, provides care to many in the community in a manner similar to what the Bonts provided. FQHCs are open to everyone. The centers care for patients covered by Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance, as well as those who have no insurance. Payments are on a sliding scale, so people with low or moderate incomes can afford the services.

As for Phineas Gage, he was taken to his "boarding house," which by all accounts was directly across the street from the current War Memorial. Stop by the Museum on Sundays in the summer, from 2 -4 pm, to pick up a copy of the Phineas Gage Walking Tour or down load it from the Cavendish Historical Society's blog. 

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