This proclamation, made by Sarah Donaldson in 1889, laid the foundation for a unique kind of home – and more so, for a promise. A promise by which each day, the ladies of Southmayd Home may live freely, like family, in the solace of their surrounding comforts.
In 1889 – when one of Sarah’s older friends could not find appropriate living accommodations in Waterbury, and had to move to Meriden – Sarah became adamant about remedying the situation. With $10 of her own money (an extraordinary amount for that time period), she opened a bank account to launch what is now Southmayd Home, Inc. Then, Donaldson recruited 99 other women to donate $10, while devoting all of her spare time towards raising funds and searching for a potential residence.
A selfless and religious woman, Sarah named the organization to honor Dr. John Southmayd – one of the early pastors at First Congregational Church in Waterbury. Although the original plan was to offer the home to women from First Church, the Board decided to open Southmayd Home to women of all faiths – a pillar that remains to this day.
In June of 1894, after an exhaustive search, Sarah found a quaint one-family house and lot at 885 North Main Street in Waterbury. The sale price was significant, at $4,000. With $2,000 in hand and her persuasive talents in tow, Donaldson managed to convince a local bank to give her a $2,000 mortgage for the purchase difference. The home would officially welcome its first tenant – an elderly blind woman wanting to stay in town – on September 26, 1898.
In 1911, when a prominent Waterbury citizen and previous Southmayd donor named Elisha Leavenworth passed away, he left Southmayd Home a sum of $20,000 and an interest in his estate. The large bequest sparked an idea by Sarah to enlarge the seven-room home, but the site was no longer suitable. Instead, Sarah sold the house on North Main Street and rented the old Waterbury Hospital Nurses Home on Wilson Street, while planning for the expansion of the nursing home.
Sarah Donaldson led the vision planning and growth of Southmayd Home for well over a decade. Then, a fall on ice broke her hip, leading her to consider evolving the leadership of the home. Sarah stayed on as an inspiring and active Board member until she passed in November of 1916 at the age of 83. That same year, the Board bought a beautiful acre lot on Columbia Boulevard for $12,000, upon which they planned to construct a three-story home – the home that exists today.
Given the desirable location, as well as the desire to give the ladies the finest accommodations, the Board tirelessly canvassed the neighborhood and neighboring towns for several years – augmenting their original building fund of $40,000 until it reached $100,000. Finally, starting in 1924 and through 1925, the cornerstone of the present home was laid and completed, debt-free and ready for the occupancy of 35 ladies.
In 1963, a nursing unit was established on the first floor of the residence. That unit closed in 1980, but for some years afterwards, 24-hour on-duty nurses were present – a philosophy of personalized and active assistive that maintains today. To offer both a comfortable experience and a home with modern conveniences, the Board has been resolute for decades in continual additions and upgrades related to home securities, care services, grounds and supporting technologies. It is a passion for philanthropy and dedication that Sarah Donaldson undoubtedly would be proud of.