City’s Oldest Retirement Home to Change Hands

The Stevens-Bennett Home, formerly the “Old Ladies Home.”

The Stevens-Bennett Home, formerly the “Old Ladies Home.”

The city’s oldest retirement home, Stevens-Bennett—a victim of being a small, standalone operation in an increasingly complex healthcare market—is expected to change hands later this month.

The state Department of Public Health’s licensure division Wednesday approved the sale of the 30-bed home to Ivy Hill Court, headed by Viorel P. and Elizabeth Duca. The Ducas operate River Valley nursing home in Northampton.

“The economies are difficult for a single location,” said Stevens-Bennett President and CEO John D. Stevens. He explained utility costs alone exceed $5,000 a month.

Stevens announced last fall his intention to retire at the end of this year, beginning a discussion of the home’s future. “It is with mixed emotions. It’s a personal life decision you make for your own welfare. But then, the other side of it, you wonder if it is the right thing to do,” Stevens said.

In recent years, the staff of Stevens-Bennett Home has gradually dropped from 30 to 19 employees. “The staff is quite capable and most will remain,” Stevens said.

The Stevens-Bennett name will not flow to the new owners. Rather, Stevens explained, the name will remain with the original state-chartered charity. It will continue to support elderly women, consistent with its original mission.

The Ladies Charitable Society was incorporated in 1856 when 14 church women first set a goal of helping two women and then building a home for aged women. After nearly 20 years of fundraising, the home opened as the “Old Ladies Home” in 1876. It was renamed the Stevens-Bennett Home a century later in recognition of the philanthropy of George Stevens and Decatur Bennett.

Seven women were the first residents of the Old Ladies Home that year. The home later obtained a Massachusetts license as a rest home and, in 1965, benefited from Medicaid (now Mass. Health). Medicaid helped ensure residents, when their own resources were exhausted, would be be able to remain living in the home.

As a non-profit, the home had been exempt from local property taxes. Under the ownership of Ivy Hill Court, Haverhill will begin receiving tax income.