Beaumont at Bryn Mawr

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It all started with a man named William Austin, president of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, who purchased and lived in a grand mansion in Bryn Mawr. After his death in 1932, it was passed onto his wife and eventually his granddaughters, including Elizabeth Converse Huebner.

Fast forward to 1983 when local businessman and visionary, Art Wheeler, who knew Mrs. Huebner, inquired about purchasing the estate. Furthermore, he suggested they turn it into a retirement community and that Mrs. Huebner and her husband be the first residents. He subsequently formed a development group and in 1985 received financing to begin work on what would become Beaumont at Bryn Mawr. A year later groundbreaking took place; deposits were in the books and construction continued throughout 1988. The first residents, many close friends of the Wheelers, began moving in near the end of 1987. A nursing care facility was granted licensure approval the following March and the seeds of Beaumont as a continuing care retirement community were born. Art Wheeler also had the foresight to put the future of Beaumont into the hands of its residents.

Beaumont was established as resident-owned and self-governing to empower residents to make decisions for the good of the community and each other. This philosophy remains strong today. Beaumont was also founded as a cooperative community, where residents enjoy the benefits of home ownership, a rare feature in retirement communities.

Long-term residents. A long standing reputation.
Also celebrating the 20th Anniversary are 39 residents who put up shingles at Beaumont back in 1987-1988 — who are still enjoying life and each others’ company. This original “gang” have watched Beaumont become a unique full service continuing care retirement community. Frances Etherington, an “original” resident of Beaumont views herself “as one of the true pioneers of Beaumont. I was here when there were dirt roads and just a handful of villas and the mansion. But in short order things started to happen, our friends came in and the sprit of Beaumont was born.”

In earlier years, several residents mentioned that their children could not believe their parents would consider a retirement community while they were still active and healthy. However, after witnessing how well their parents had adjusted over time and how wonderful life was, many children have put their names on the future Beaumont waiting list.

Beaumont. Inviting in every sense of the word.
Beaumont has kept itself small and cozy over the years with approximately 250 independent living residents and an additional 60 living in the skilled nursing health center and in the Mansion’s Assisted Living wing.

Since many residents have friends who join the community, the continuity of friendships has existed for decades. Sally DaCosta, a Beaumont veteran, said, “Beaumont has this special energy and environment. The residents stay active, connect with each other socially and are very warm and hospitable. It really is one big happy family.”

Susan Dahme moved to the community in her early seventies, occupying the apartment that was owned by her mother, an ‘early settler’. “When my mom passed away, it was only natural that I continued the tradition and moved in,” said Mrs. Dahme. “We had this great apartment and I knew many of the residents from my constant visits over the years.” This ‘equity ownership’ feature-where residents own their apartments with the advantage of appreciation is another unique feature of Beaumont.

Dining at Beaumont is also very unconventional compared to other retirement communities. With six smaller, tastefully decorated dining rooms in its mansion and an informal Grill Room, residents enjoy a home-like atmosphere that they liken to being at a fine, cozy restaurant. Residents can be seated as late as 8 o’clock each evening or receive room service at a moments notice. It’s no wonder the residents refer to their lifestyle as living at “Hotel Beaumont.”

Art. Activities. An exceptional staff.
A haven for artists, Beaumont allows residents and outside artists to continually display their artworks in exhibitions currently booked through 2010. Organ recitals are also very popular, played on Beaumont’s grand 1914 Aeolian organ. The BB&B railroad (Bartleville, Beaumont and Beyond) was launched in 1988 by resident Dr. Harvey Bartle, creating a magnificent train room that residents, family members and kids of all ages can enjoy.

Continuity in management has been another major factor in Beaumont’s continued level of excellence. President and CEO Joseph Fortenbaugh III, has been at Beaumont virtually from the beginning. Fortenbaugh is very hands-on and stays overnight during bad weather to work with the staff and attend to any resident concerns. His leadership has led to very low staff turnover and a level of professionalism that make the community a successful not-for-profit institution.

Mr. Fortenbaugh’s staff is very devoted to the residents and making the community a special place to live. Three staff members, Jackie Holness, Beverly Burton and Evelyn Ogunsola have been with Beaumont throughout its 20-year history. They remember back to 1988 when the floors were bare and they had to use walkie talkies to communicate. Today times have changed, but what hasn’t changed Jackie feels is “that the staff knows all the residents by name and you get a warm feeling working here.” Evelyn adds, “It really is one big happy family.” Beverly talks about retiring, but she is so attached to the residents and her work that she can’t see leaving. “It’s a great place to work,” she says. “I am fortunate to have found Beaumont 20 years ago and it keeps getting better.”

Beaumont. Getting better with age.
Although the majority of residents are from the greater Philadelphia area, new, younger residents are discovering Beaumont from the Midwest to Maine and beyond. The lists of activities continue to grow and technology is a top priority for the future. Just this year alone Beaumont is bringing a wine tasting “club” to its campus as well as a worldwide travel group, yoga and a beefed up fitness program. It is hoped that by year’s end, the community will be wireless with HDTV hookups throughout its campus.

It’s hard to believe that Beaumont is celebrating its 20th birthday. It seems only yesterday that a forward thinking man, Art Wheeler took a grand mansion and serene setting and turned it into a little slice of heaven in Bryn Mawr. The saying goes that “life is better at Beaumont” – and to the residents who run the community, the families that visit and the staff who work there, they couldn’t agree more.

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