The Warren County Orphan Asylum and Children’s Home was located along Shakertown Pike west of Lebanon, Ohio. It was later known as the Mary Haven Home for Boys.4 5
The beginnings of the children’s home, later to be known as the Mary Haven Home, began in earnest on June 6, 1863 when Mary Ann Klingling, a local resident who lived on Broadway in Lebanon, crafted a will summing $40,000.1 2 3 The fund would be applied for the construction of a home where disadvantaged, white children, where one or both parents have deceased, could receive “a sound moral and Christian education” and be supported during their youth. The monies were originally not to be used unless there was a matching fund; if no individual stepped forward, the money would be donated to Lebanon with the same stipulation. But if Lebanon failed to take up the issue, the money would be donated to the county and be placed into a trust fund to be used for the support and construction of such a facility.
Additionally, if Warren County did not assume the building within six years, the entire fund would be transferred to the German General Protestant Orphan asylum of Cincinnati. The children’s home would also be free of all denominational restraint.2 3
The will was specific in that the fund would be made available for the education and support of orphaned “white” children.1 That will, however, was probated in August 1867.2
The commissioners of Warren County accepted the will with one exception: the clause that allowed white children only into the care of the home. The commissioners appealed to the state legislature, who were ultimately successful.2
On February 11, 1869, the Ohio Legislature authored the Warren County commissioners to accept the Klingling fund and to construct and maintain an orphanage in connection with a children’s home.1 3 Two separate books would be maintained for each institution, with the money divided evenly between the two.
In early spring 1873, Warren County commissioners purchased 52 acres west of Lebanon for the facility.3 The six board of trustees were chosen by the Court of Common Pleases on August 3, 1874, and on December 12, the Orphan Asylum and Children’s Home was opened at a cost of $23,000, including furnishings, and overlooked the Turtlecreek valley from a small hilltop perch.1 2 It measured 52 feet by 82 feet, and included three levels with a full basement. Twenty-five children were transferred from the county infirmary to the new residence.3
In 1880, the fund was increased by $7,000 thanks to Isaac Jones of Salem Township.2 A laundry was added on-site in 1883.1 Later, the property became a home for troubled teenage males.
In July 1896, a group of citizens from Lebanon spent three hours at the orphanage, where they noted the immaculate condition of the grounds and the spotless interior.1 The second and third floors consisted of fifteen to twenty rooms that were used as sleeping rooms. The beds were smaller than average, and each room contained three to six. In addition, no two rooms were painted alike.
Meals were served by beginning with grace.1 Although the food was of common stock, meat was provided once a day, with beef served two days a week and chicken on occasion.
Of the 36 children housed in the asylum, 21 were females and the remainder were males, three of which were classified as negros.1 The majority of the children were from five to ten years of age, and the older children were instructed to work on the farm that surrounded the property. A schoolhouse was in use for nine months of the year, and a teacher was paid $315 annually.
The Children’s Home closed in November 1995 with a new facility, the Mary Haven Youth Center, opened on Justice Drive.1 A non-profit group that conducted teen counseling then occupied the building, followed by a ministry.4
In early July 2009, Terry Banker, a local Turtlecreek Township resident, filed a citizen’s complaint with Lebanon’s housing code enforcement office.4 Banker approached county commissioners and the attorney general’s office to have the county restore the building as early as 2006, seeking to have it purposed to what the will included in its mission: to serve as a children’s home. In a presentation to the Lebanon Conservancy Foundation, a historic preservation organization, Banker stated that county did not comply with the original bylaws of the trust, and that the county violated with state law.5 For instance, a six-member board of trustees, designated by the Common Pleas Court to manage the trust, does not exist according to Banker. In addition, an independent audit of the funds from the original will, along with donations from the 1950s to the 1980s, is required because a significant sum of money was donated over time but not disclosed.
County commissioner Pat South noted that the building contains lead paint and asbestos, and would cost $5 million – at 2000 estimates.4 In comparison, it would cost $200,000 to demolish, according to Smith.5
On January 4, 2011, the Warren County Commission filed a lawsuit against the Ohio Attorney General’s Office in the county Probate Court, seeking a decision on the ownership of the Children’s Home and land.5 The Commission requested that part of the trust be voided, specifically relating to the declaration of rights, and that the trust be terminated outright. The suit stated that while a will and trust was established to fund the center, county taxpayers were ultimately billed for its upkeep because the asylum and home did not have a sufficient cash flow to remain open.
The will, however, stated that the trust would never be able to fully cover all expenses of the home, and that it would need “community support.”5 A tax levy provided operating funds.
Banker, however, contested the Probate Judge Mike Powell, notably because Powell served at Warren County’s juvenile detention home prior to its closure.5 The conflict of interest was not disclosed until the case was filed in court.