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January 1, 2013 > Homes for the Elderly

Homes for the Elderly

By Phill Holmes

The Loring Pickering family, owners of the San Francisco Call newspaper, decided to establish a retreat in the Niles area. They purchased apricot orchard land located between the railroad and the present Mission road just south of Niles. Here they built a lovely summer home with no indoor plumbing, an outdoor kitchen and only two rooms for servants. The driveway featured twin pepper trees and a variety of pines, palms and elms.

David and Martha Barker purchased a Victorian across the street from the PickeringÕs in 1919 which was being operated as a nursing home. Mrs. Barker was a trained nurse so they planned to operate the home for a few years and then sell it. A maid in their employ tried to fix a blown fuse with a penny and the resulting fire destroyed the home, all of the BarkerÕs possessions and their plans for the future.

The Barkers decided to rebuild. They found a partner with money and designed plans for a rest home to meet the needs of patients who would occupy it. It was to be one story with wide doorways, railings, low windows, a front door rampÉ and fireproof.

The new Niles Home For The Aged was Òup and runningÓ by July 1922.

The Niles Chamber of Commerce Bulletin featured a photograph of the building it described as a Òpermanent home for aged persons designed to meet their needs.Ó This bulletin also noted that the building was constructed of hollow tile, brick and concrete. A cottage with the same features had recently been added.

David Barber died a week before the birth of son, David (Dave). Martha continued to run the Niles Rest Home for many years as owner, head nurse and administrator. The Niles Home for the Elderly was described in 1936 as Òan attractive residence of 16 private rooms, with modern hotel accommodations, sunny dining hall and commodious reception parlors.Ó

MarthaÕs Son, David, grew up, attended local schools and the University of California, raised a family, served in the U.S. Army and worked in the insurance industry. Martha continued to operate the rest home across Mission Boulevard from the Pickering house. She purchased the Pickering house about 1945; it belonged to her and the family until sold to Mid-Peninsula in 1995. It was relocated across W. Pickering Avenue to the site of the first Niles Home and restored as the Martha Barker Community Center.

The Rest Home was pictured in a 1962 Shopping Guide as the Mission Road Sanatorium and labeled as ÒLicensed Number One in California.Ó It was sometimes called the Niles Garden Residence and said to be unique for its time, setting the pattern for construction of other such facilities in California.

The building was demolished in June 1991. MarthaÕs son, David, 67 years old, watched and rummaged through his photos and clippings as a link to his past was taken away.

Other homes in the area were not apparently as heavily advertised. Homes advertised in 1946 included the Warm Springs Rest Home operated by Mrs. E. E. Johns and StockwellÕs Rest Home in Niles. Dr. Joseph Enos of Alameda advertised plans in 1950 to construct a $90,000 sanatorium; it was reported operating in 1951 and he was the physician there in 1958.

The 1957 Shopping Guide listed BrownÕs Guest home on highway 9, Craigs Rest Haven at Mission San Jose, the Masonic Home at Decoto and the Niles Rest Home on Morrison Avenue. Craigs and Mission Road are listed under Sanatorium. Other homes include SessaÕs and Warm Springs. Rossers Hillview Lodge on Warm Springs Boulevard became prominent in the sixties.

Descriptive names such as ÒOld Folks Home or Homes for the AgedÓ fell from popularity and were replaced by modern names such as Convalescent Home or Hospital and Skilled Nursing Facility. A search for care facilities today has so many categories - Convalescent Homes and Hospitals, Retirement and Life Care Communities and Homes, Residential Care Homes or Adult Care Centers - that itÕs exhausting to find a specific facility. Things have changed since the days when David and Martha Barker opened their Niles Home for the Aged. No doubt services and facilities will continue to change as well.

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