On September 29, 1899,
the Rt. Rev. Boyd Vincent, Bishop of Southern Ohio, blessed the property known
until 1958 as Bethany Home. Bethany Home is as old as the Community of the
Transfiguration, which celebrated its centennial in 1998. Mother Eva had originally
planned to name the foundation the Community of St. Mary and St. Martha of
Bethany. She liked the symbolism of Mary who represented the life of prayer
and Martha who represented the life of active works of mercy. Discovering
that there was already a Community with a very similar name, she chose the
name, Community of the Transfiguration. To her, this event included the same
The seed of Bethany Home
was planted in the summer of 1897 when Miss Eva Matthews, later known as Mother
Eva Mary, rented the old Allen homestead on Congress and Fountain Avenue in
Glendale to be used as a kind of "fresh air camp" for families to give them
relief from the hot city. Beatrice Henderson, later known as Sister Beatrice
Martha, was placed in charge, with two friends to help her, as well as the
mothers who came. Beatrice was then 20 years old.
At that time Miss Matthews
and Miss Henderson were living on Freeman Street in downtown Cincinnati, near
St. Luke's Church where Eva's brother, the Rev. Paul Matthews, was in charge.
It was called Bethany Mission House. They helped with the work in the parish--Mother's
Meetings, Sewing Schools, Sunday Schools, visiting people in their homes,
and what would now be called social service work. It was for these families
that the summer home was provided. Nearly 200 people benefited that summer
from a "whiff of fresh air". Other women, including Beatrice's mother and
sister, lived there also, for varying periods of time, and assisted with the
work, but only these two had the vision of forming a Religious Community.
At the end of the summer
there were several children, mostly babies, who they realized could not be
taken back to the impossible conditions in the city. Eva rented a house next
door to provide a home for these children. Beatrice, whose father had been
a physician, was very good at taking care of sick babies.
It was in the spring
of 1898 that Eva, with the help of her brother, Mortimer Matthews, purchased
the property which became Bethany Home, and eventually, Bethany School. They
moved to the new location on July 3, 1898. The place was in deplorable condition,
and they had to camp out that summer while the house, a fine old farmhouse,
was made ready for its new occupants. The people of Glendale were very generous,
providing milk and provisions and ice, hammocks and furnishings. By September,
the house was ready, and was blessed by Bishop Vincent on September 29, the
Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. That was always known as Bethany Home's
birthday, and the tradition has continued in Bethany School.
It was on August 6, 1898,
that Eva Lee Matthews and Beatrice Henderson made their first temporary vows
of poverty, chastity, and obedience, as Sisters of the Transfiguration. They
would wait five years to make life vows after they could be reasonably sure
that the Community would continue.
Bethany Home opened
with five babies. The annual reports for the first few years report the number
of children received, the number of deaths, and the number returned to their
parents. In September, 1900 there were twenty-four children in the Home. That
year the person who had been helping with the babies left and it was decided
to close the nursery and not to take any more children under two years old
to have more space for the older children. Because of loss of school days
during epidemics, and to provide greater time for the children's religious
education, it was decided that Bethany Home should have its own school rather
than the public school. Two school rooms were built. Besides the regular curriculum
as required by the State, the girls who showed ability received training in
music and art. Professor Sterling, of the Metropolitan College of Music, provided
a scholarship for Voice and one for Piano. In 1901 a new building was built
to house both children, lay helpers and Sisters. It was attached to the original
farmhouse, and was dedicated by the Bishop on May 28, 1902. At that time they
received children from many places, including several from Alaska. Later,
when Bethany Home became a Community Chest recipient, they had to restrict
admissions to local children.
The Home received much
help, in money and in contributions of clothing, from individual donors and
from church groups. The women of the Presbyterian and Episcopal Churches did
a great deal of sewing for the children, including a group called the Bethany
Home Aid Society.
One of the first priorities
when preparing the original building for occupancy was the provision of a
Chapel. The former ballroom of the old farmhouse was used for this. This room
was enlarged in 1905, but it was still very crowded, for there were now 62
children in the Home. The stairway leading to Mother Eva's apartment was just
outside the chapel and older Sisters, reminiscing about that period, said
that many of the children sat outside on the stairway. A fund for a new chapel
was started in 1906 with the gift of one dollar from a child, followed by
a $25 gift from a friend. The fund grew slowly. The Sisters say that the fund
grew by means of small gifts. The annual report of 1911 records a Christmas
gift of $55 from the children to the chapel fund. The windows and many of
the furnishings have been given as memorials. The artwork of singing cherubs
over the west door of our current chapel is a memorial to Mrs. Henderson,
Sister Beatrice's mother, who taught the children singing in the earliest
days of Bethany Home.
By 1927 it was felt that
there was enough money to start building. Mother Eva and Sister Beatrice met
with Ralph Adams Cram, then the most noted church architect in this country,
and told him their dream. The Altar was the gift of a former chaplain whose
son had carved it while living in Paris the year after World War I. It had
been stored, waiting for the chapel to be built. The chapel was completed
and dedicated on June 11, 1929. Mother Eva did not live to see its completion
for she died July 6, 1928. She is buried beneath the high altar.
The chapel was the crowning
point in the design for Bethany Home Village. In the early 1920's, to be in
keeping with modern methods of institutional child care, Mother Eva and Sister
Beatrice had decided to change to the cottage system for care of the children,
and Bethany Home Village was built. Three dormitory buildings, the refectory
and infirmary buildings were completed by St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6, 1927.
Mother Eva arranged a little ceremony for each cottage. The children who were
to occupy the house met Mother Eva and a delegation of Sisters - of course
the house mothers were among them - on the porch where the oldest child received
in trust a scroll bearing the words - which Mother Eva read with impressive
"In the Name of God.
The Sisters and Associates
of the Community of the Transfiguration hereby present to the first group
of the Children of Bethany home for their own use and in trust for those
who may succeed them this complete Cottage of Bethlehem and all its contents,
furnishings and equipment in the hope that they will enrich this gift with
many happy customs and good traditions before they pass it over to their
Presented this Saint
Nicholas Day, Dec. 6 in the year of our Lord 1927."
Bethel was duly presented
to the "second group", and Bethsaida to the "third group".
There were eventually
also an infirmary, Bethesda, a refectory with music rooms and library upstairs,
BethEva, a large well-equipped school house, St. Faith's, and the children's
store run by the Seniors. The buildings were connected with walkways and roads
- Irving Ave. and Paul St.
The oldest girls were
still housed in alcoves down at the Hope, laundry building, and felt a little
abused at the contrast until Sister Constance Anna came home from China on
her furlough. Their woeful looks roused her untiring energies and promptly
put her rare gifts including her flashing dimple, to the task of raising money
for a suitable cottage for them, and in short order she raised enough for
the best dormitory building of them all. It is called Beth Anna, the House
of Grace. Each girl had her own room with running hot and cold water. Mother
Eva never saw Bethanna, the schoolhouse or the chapel but she died happy in
the thought that her dear children were adequately housed at last.
For many years Bethany
Home had its own high school. At first the older girls were sent to the village
high school but they found that the many disadvantages outweighed the advantages.
It took the girls out of the routine life and set them apart - made them not
quite one with the group at home. It brought different standards and ideals
into the Home atmosphere and often a loss of time because of epidemics either
in the Home or the village. There were Sisters qualified to be High School
teachers and the school, after a few years, received a Grade A standard from
the State Board of Education. The high school was always very small, and eventually
it was decided that larger classes and more outside contacts would be of greater
advantage. In the fall of 1943 the high school girls began to attend the Glendale
In October, 1912, came
the first issue of the Bethany Home Chronicle. It was edited by Margaret Beresford,
age 14, and Pearl Robinson, age 13. At the beginning it was published monthly
during the school year, but later it was less often. The second issue lists
a larger staff, including printer. Everything was hand written and apparently
duplicated on a hectograph or ditto machine.
Not until 1912 did they
use a typewriter, and perhaps a mimeograph. Each issue contained news of the
Home and the Sisters, including the monthly Honor Roll. There were articles,
stories and poems by the girls and sometimes there was a story by Mother Eva.
Sisters went out to China in 1914 and many of the letters home from China
and from other branch houses, were copied into the Chronicle. Some later issues
have news of Alumnae and also of Associates of the Community. The last few
years it was published bimonthly. There was a subscription price of 50 cents,
later raised to one dollar. In 1945, the Sisters began publishing the Transfiguration
Quarterly and the chronicle became more specifically a school publication.
The last issue is dated March and April, 1950.
For a few years (1906-1926)
a Home for Boys was operated in conjunction with the Home for Girls, first
on the same property and then at a small farm nearby. Sister Clara Elizabeth
was put in charge of the boys and was responsible for their teaching and care.
When the Community relinquished administration of the Boys' Home, and sold
the property to the Episcopal Diocese, it became St. Edmund's Home, and later
known as St. Edmund's Camp. In 1995 the property was sold to private developers.
The Chapel which had been built by Sr. Clara and the boys was purchased by
a group in Glendale and moved to a new site near the village square.
In 1958 it was decided
to change Bethany Home to Bethany School and to admit day students, boys as
well as girls. In the following years various Sisters served as principal
or director of instruction. The boarding department continued, using only
Bethsaida and Bethanna cottages. The other cottages gradually were converted
into classroom buildings. In the next few years the number of boarders decreased,
and it became increasingly difficult to find satisfactory cottage parents,
and the boarding department was closed. Bethsaida cottage became a classroom
building and Bethanna is used by the Sisters as a retreat and guest house.
In 1975 the Rev. James
Hindle was Headmaster and School Chaplain. Mr. Richard Wood served as Associate
Headmaster and Principal. Dr. Paul Dawson succeeded as Headmaster in 1980.
Fr. Hindle continued another year with the title of Rector. After serving
in the role for nineteen years, Paul Dawson retired in 1999 and was succeeded
by Cheryl Pez, the current Head of School.
The yearbook, begun in
1975, shows a thoroughly racially integrated student body. Administration
and faculty lists show many teachers who taught at Bethany for quite a number
of years. Lack of adequate transportation kept enrollment small. Numbers began
to increase when, for a few years, arrangements were made for Bethany children
to ride on the Landmark Baptist School buses which covered a much wider geographical
area. Enrollment increased still more when the law permitted private school
pupils to use the public school transportation.
The school currently
serves students from kindergarten through eighth grade. For a few years there
was also a preschool for 3-4 year olds, but this was discontinued for lack
As the school population
grew from the 80 girls of Bethany Home to the 265 who are enrolled today,
many changes had to be made to accommodate the larger number of students and
to modernize the facilities.
St. Faith's School remained
the main classroom building, but the three cottages which had housed the children
of Bethany Home became classroom space for the lower school. Since the boarding
department was discontinued, the fourth cottage, Bethanna, has been used by
the Sisters as a guest and retreat house.
The original recreation
building for Bethany Home was named Hilaritas Hall, Hilaritas being one of
the words in the Sisters' motto. It was a frame building, built by the girls,
Sisters, and maintenance staff. It was the scene of many parties for the girls,
dramatic productions, and movies about once a month. It was no longer adequate
for the needs of Bethany School, and so money was raised for the building
of a gymnasium which was completed and in use the school year of 1963-64.
There was an attempt to continue the old name but it was usually simply called
the Gym. In 1997, that building was enlarged and updated be a multipurpose
building, housing not only the physical education classes and the athletic
program, but also providing more space for music. Its official name is still
In 1990 the old laundry,
known as the Hope, was remodeled and converted into the school media center,
including also a computer lab and a language lab. The former library, above
the dining room in Beth Eva, became the art department with a large classroom
for grades 1-8 and a smaller facility for the kindergarten art program.
Since 1980, the school
instituted broad sweeping changes in program and curriculum. Technology instruction
was begun with the beginning of a computer lab, placement of computers in
classrooms and the creation of a problem solving and critical thinking laboratory.
A reading lab was created to provide an active involvement, creating excitement
in reading. As the curriculum was adjusted along the way, the reading lab
became a reading/writing lab, responding to the need for the development of
sound writing skills for the graduates of the school. As the size of the school
grew, there was a broadening of the Christian Education Department and the
weekly Chapel services were split with one service being for grades K-4
and the other for grades 5-8. The school day was designed to begin with
a devotional in all classrooms and each grade attends two Christian
Education classes per week. Sister Mary Elizabeth, herself a Bethany School
graduate, was named the Director of the Christian Education Program, serving
as an active part of the administrative team.
Extra curricular activities
have become an important part of the total program. The boys and girls basketball
and volleyball teams play in the CYO League and have
done well for many years. Scouting programs for boys and girls have become
active at Bethany. The student participants seems to enjoy scouting activities
with their school friends. Science enrichment activities have become a regular
offering for age-appropriate youngsters. The response has been significant.
The music department has also offered singing and dancing group activities
complimented by an art activity or two. Students have also benefited from
summer reading camps, insect/ computer camps, and specialized tutoring offerings.
Bethany School today
is a school with an active parent organization, Bethany Educators and Parents.
This organization began its active participation in 1980. Their emphasis on
fundraising and friend raising, for the good of the school population, has
realized many tangible additions to the school. The student body is involved
within and beyond the school day. A commitment to meeting student needs allows
matriculation to the fine high school offerings of Cincinnati. Bethany continues
to be the school in Cincinnati that offers quality independent education at
an affordable cost, a fine academic and co-curricular program, under an umbrella
of quality Christian values. The sound historical underpinnings, continuing
support of the Sisters of the Community of the Transfiguration, commitment
of the teachers and administrators at Bethany, speak to a future that is very
bright, bright for the many children in the area who are able to enjoy what
the school provides.