On Feb. 26 83 residents of the Anoka Care Center moved to their new homes at the Homestead at Anoka on Fourth Avenue North. With this exciting day completed, skilled nursing care at 1040 Madison St. in Anoka came to an end one month short of 50 full years.
This facility was constructed in 1963 by local developers Vernon Plaisance and Winslow Chamberlain who operated it as a for profit business. It initially housed 54 patients and was known as Maple Manor Nursing Home.
Over the years it has been tweaked, modified and renovated to meet changing needs and financial realities.
In 1965 two additional three-bed rooms were added on each wing, increasing capacity to 66.
In 1968 the second floor was added increasing capacity to 125. An elevator was added, the kitchen and dining room on main floor expanded and the recreation room in the basement paneled and finished. Skilled nursing patients were moved to the second floor and intermediate residents were moved to first floor.
In 1969 the partnership of Plaisance and Chamberlain sold Maple Manor to the Gold Medallion Corporation which owned and operated 10 nursing homes in the Minneapolis-St. Paul vicinity.
Maple Manor changed hands again in 1981. It became the property of the Good Neighbor Corporation which owned 23 other facilities including 11 in the Twin Cities Metro Area. At this time, the second floor nursing station, the employee’s break room and the laundry room were renovated.
In 1985 the four offices at the north end of the second floor were renovated and two other offices became resident rooms, bringing the census up to 127.
In 1992 the facility was purchased by the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, becoming part of the largest non-profit care provider in the United States. At this time, it became known as the Anoka Good Samaritan Care Center.
After some room down-sizing, the census declined to 111 in the fall of 1998. Extensive remodeling of the common areas and hallways was also completed at this time.
In the winter of 1998/1999 the facility was downsized further to 88 beds.
During the late 1990s nursing home operators felt the stress of falling reimbursement rates and rising costs. Older facilities found it hard to compete and provide services in buildings needing updating and renovation.
In June 1999 family, friends and advocates of Good Samaritan founded a Family Council. Their purpose was to be a sounding board for concerns, to give residents a voice in planning and decisions and to support and recognize staff.
Their agenda focused upon the problems of the age and condition of the building, staff shortages and inadequate state reimbursement formula.
But their real concern was possible closure. Good Samaritan had sustained financial losses for three years.
To compound the problem, the 2000 State Legislature was considering legislation to prevent construction of new facilities in the state.
On Feb. 11, 2000 Good Samaritan Administrator David Hjortland circulated a letter to concerned people about the pending state legislation. He wrote that within 30 days after the Legislative Session Good Samaritan would have to make a decision. If passed, the proposed legislation would eliminate the option to rebuild and, even if it didn’t pass, continuing losses made closure likely.
People got organized. Local legislators became involved. Rep. Jim Abeler and Sen. Leo Foley worked to insert a provision in the legislation exempting the Anoka facility from the moratorium on new construction provided a new building would be located within 10 miles of Anoka.
In March local residents testified at the Capitol. They argued that although Minnesota had a relatively high number of nursing beds for the population (94 per 1,000 of over 65 residents), Anoka County had the lowest number of any county in the state (27 per 1,000).
The legislation passed with the Anoka exemption. Good Samaritan had new life and began planning for a new facility.
The site search began in July 2000, but many obstacles lay ahead. And who would have known that it would take 10 years of searching and two years of planning and construction before this moving day would arrive.
Next month we will look at how this project almost didn’t happen.
Bob Kirchner is a local historian, seminary student and city of Anoka’s part-time community development director.