Carleton-Willard is 125 years old

August 05, 2009


Residents Dick Smith, left, and Scott Paradise get some cardio exercise in at the fitness center at Carleton-Willard Village in Bedford. Ann Ringwoond/ Wicked Local staff photographer

Bedford Minuteman


The fact that Carleton-Willard Village is 125 years old may surprise some people.

However, that is exactly the case as this year marks the 125thanniversary for this not-for-profit organization that is a continuing care retirement community.

As president and CEO of the Carleton-Willard Village campus in Bedford, Barbara Doyle has seen the facility change quite a bit since it opened up in 1982.

“It has obviously matured,” said Doyle. “I have spent my entire career in this field. It is very exciting to open the first continuing care retirement community in Massachusetts.”

The first resident moved into the Bedford Carleton-Willard Village on Aug. 2 in 1982. Back then, there was 65 acres of land and that has since increased to 72 acres. After the first resident moved in, it took two years to fully occupy the facility.

Currently, 175 residents live in independent living, 60 in assistance in living and 30 in the nursing facility for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

“You will find a real sense of community amongst the residents and staff,” said Doyle. “I feel privileged to accomplish what we have accomplished here at Carleton-Willard Village so far. Carleton-Willard Village is part of my family.”

Long before women secured the right to vote, three visionary women – Elizabeth Carleton, Caroline Caswell and Frances Willard – began individual crusades to address the needs of people largely ignored by society.

In 1882, the plight of the Free Home For Aged And Homeless Women, a small home in Boston’s North End, came to the attention of Dr. Elizabeth Carleton, a pioneer surgeon and celebrated public speaker. Inspired by the home’s mission but appalled by the bare bones living conditions, she held a meeting in her parlor to gather support for the home’s residents. Within a few months, the New England Aid Society For The Aged and Friendless was born.

One year later, the society announced plans to establish a home for aged couples.

Realizing that an even larger constituency was in need of services, Caswell and her supporters purchased property in Bedford: a working farm with 185 acres of farmland, orchards and woods, a 20-room house, laundry building, gardener’s house and barn.

Opening in 1910, the original Llewsac Lodge was designed to be a residential home for older women and a summer vacation spot for the factory girls living at the home.

The 20th century saw much building and expansion at the Bedford site. And when hard times befell other institutions, such as the Cooper Homestead and the Harriet Sawyer Home, their residents were brought into the care of the settlement.

By 1956, the expanded compound officially became known as the Frances E. Willard Homes, primarily serving the needs of older men and women, with an increasing number receiving nursing care.

In 1975, a plan was introduced proposing the merger of the Elizabeth Carleton House and the Frances Willard Homes. The innovative concept called for a self-sustaining community providing care for older adults on multiple levels, from totally independent living to round-the-clock skilled nursing care. The ambitious plan also required the preservation of 65 acres of woods on the Bedford property, integrating them into the aesthetic and rehabilitative fabric of the new facility.

In August 1982, Carleton-Willard Village opened its doors – the first facility of its kind in New England to provide a comprehensive spectrum of care for older adults.

“This has been a remarkable legacy to continue,” said Doyle. “The respect that the organization receives now is very gratifying for the Board of Trustees and myself.”

Director of Public Relations Stephanie Smith has been working at Carleton-Willard Village for about a year and a half.

“I love working here,” said Smith. “The residents are wonderful to be with. They are all interesting and vibrant individuals. All the residents have respect for one another and the staff has that same respect for the all the residents.”


© 2009 Carleton-Willard Village