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July 26, 2013

A 'silver' lining: Refurbished Silvercrest offers historic charm, senior living

NEW ALBANY — Retired physician Marshall Buchman began his medical career at Silvercrest Hospital, continued his work when the facility was converted to a youth development center, and now is eager to tour the refurbished campus more than 40 years after first stepping foot on the property.

“It’s served its purpose for all those years,” Buchman said of Silvercrest, which has been revamped by developer Matt Chalfant into a senior independent and assisted living facility.

Buchman plans on attending one of the open houses at The Villages at Historic Silvercrest this weekend to view the product of Chalfant’s work, as the campus was where Buchman spent most of his career.  

The property was purchased for Silvercrest Hospital in 1924 for $6,500, but it took another 14 years for the state to agree to foot the construction costs of the building.

The state tuberculosis hospital opened in 1940, and Silvercrest was a busy place.

“There was so much demand for the hospital, they didn’t even have a dedication until 1941,” Chalfant said.

The hospital continued to flourish for another three decades until the state phased out operations at Silvercrest in 1972.

In October of 1969, Buchman was hired as a staff physician at Silvercrest. In addition to the 40 tuberculosis patients that were being treated there at the time, Silvercrest had accepted 40 residents from a military home in Lafayette as a means to increasing funding for the hospital.

“Hospitalization was not nearly as necessary as it had previously been,” Buchman said.

Buchman was placed in charge of those 40 transferred patients, one of whom happened to be the mother of the then-state health commissioner.

After the state closed the facility, the campus became home to the Silvercrest Children’s Development Center in 1974, and Buchman came back to the campus to again serve as a staff physician.

Buchman continued his work at Silvercrest until 1995, and the development center closed in 2006. Lacking local funding to adequately renovate the campus, the state sought to demolish all of the Silvercrest buildings.

But local preservationists and groups such as Indiana Landmarks pushed to save Silvercrest, and after delaying the state’s plans to raze the buildings, the property was sold to Chalfant in 2007.

Chalfant and his wife, Tonya, live on property adjoining the Silvercrest site, and his aunt was a former nurse at the facility.

The couple welcomed the challenge of restoring the historic campus, and the project certainly was a sizable undertaking.

Chalfant Industries brought in 187, 40-yard trash bins to the site, and they had no trouble filling them.

“That’s 7,500 cubic yards of trash and debris we took out before construction,” Chalfant said.

He stressed this week that the investment and hard work have been rewarded with the preservation of Silvercrest.

“This was such a special building,” Chalfant said while standing in the stairwell between the second and third floors of the main structure.

“To have the chance to do something with it here in my hometown was a great opportunity.”

Capturing some of Silvercrest’s and New Albany’s history was also a focal point of the development. One example is the general store in the main building of The Villages, which has displays of glassware that was made in New Albany between 1890 and 1910.

Chalfant partnered with Louisville-based Trilogy Health Services, as the company will manage the residents and health services.

The Villages feature 26 independent living, two-bedroom patio homes with attached garages, and maintenance and housekeeping are included in the month-to-month rent package.

There are 15 independent living apartments in the main building that come with the option of one or two bedroom suites.

Covered garage parking, on-call maintenance and quick access to the campus library, dining room and clubhouse are among the features of the independent apartments.

On separate floors of the main building are 25 assisted living and 54 skilled-care apartments. Private baths, furnished rooms and daily meals are offered to residents of those apartments.

The main building was refurbished to give the structure the feel of an upper echelon hotel instead of a former hospital.

Ross Oberhausen, administrator of The Villages at Historic Silvercrest, said Trilogy strives to provide a full continuum of care in a comfortable setting.

He touted the Silvercrest staff members are well trained and will seek to build relationships with the patients instead of just being administers of treatment and medicine.

“They get to know the staff members, and that’s better for the residents’ health,” Oberhausen said. “We try to make it feel more home-like than the hospital setting.”

The independent living homes are already being occupied, and Oberhausen estimated the state should award the necessary permits for occupancy of the other living units by the middle of August.

When fully staffed, The Villages will employ 120 workers in New Albany.

“That’s a huge impact for the local community,” Oberhausen said.

There are preliminary plans to refurbish additional buildings on the campus to provide  more residential space.

Along with views of Floyds Knobs and the Louisville skyline, The Villages features tennis courts, a fitness center and a movie theater.

For residency information, call 812-542-6720.

Open house

• The public is invited to open houses being held from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at The Villages at Historic Silvercrest at 1809 Old Vincennes Road.

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David Bennett, Jeffersonville, is pictured at Riverview Village in Clarksville where he is undergoing rehabilitation after losing his leg due to diabetic complications. Bennett is a 1981 New Albany High School graduate, and was on the 1980 basketball team that finished the season with a 27-1 record.

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