Permanence and Benevolence
and the Continuing Story of Converse Home
My father and I visited Burlington’s Lakeview Cemetery yesterday. It was a perfect June Saturday afternoon for enjoying the blue of Lake Champlain, the peaks of the Adirondacks, and the variety of stones and memorials in the Queen City’s grandest of burial grounds. While walking among the headstones closest to the Lake, we noticed a large, upright marker that read “Home for Aged Women.” The other side of the stone read “Founded October 21, 1886.” Surrounding the “Home for the Aged Women” stone were 17 individual stones, bearing the names of women who died between 1893 and 1974. The stones formed a rectangle around the “Home for Aged Women” marker. Some of the stones were flat in the ground. Some of them were above ground memorials. Some of the stones bore the full names of the deceased woman. Others included only the woman’s initials. All of them included birth and death dates. The lion’s share of the women in the “Home for Aged Women” plot died between 1920 and 1945. The headstone of Mima M. Lewis (1890-1974) bore a death date more than a quarter century after the next most recent death date in the plot.
Neither of us were familiar with the “Home for Aged Women,” so we turned to Google for some guidance. It turns out that the “Home for Aged Women” was the original name of Converse Home, one of Burlington’s longest-lasting and most esteemed institutions. Converse Home remains true to its original mission, continuing to serve as a cozy, home-like assisted living community for the elderly. Now, it hosts both men and women, including a number of married couples. In 1954, the “Home for Aged Women” changed its name to “Converse Home” in honor of the late Rev. John Converse (1801-1880), pastor at the First Congregational Church and founder of the Burlington Female Seminary. Converse Home, then the “Home for Aged Women,” moved to its present location, a beautiful federal-style house at 272 Church Street near the Hospital and the UVM campus in 1921. Originally, “The Home for Aged Women” was located on King Street before moving briefly to St. Paul Street. Both the Converse Home itself and the “Home for Aged Women” plot at Lakeview Cemetery endure as symbols of permanence and benevolence in Vermont’s largest city.
For further reading:
The Converse Home History