History of Bethany

How It All Began

Bethany School has a long rich history dating back to 1897 when Eva Lee Matthews and Beatrice Henderson established the Sisters of the Transfiguration under the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  Their first project was renting property in Glendale, Ohio which they used as a “fresh air camp” for families to give them relief from the hot city.  This summer home was a retreat for the Bethany Mission Home located in Cincinnati, and 200 families enjoyed the respite from the heat and poor air of the city.  At the end of the summer, the Sisters realized there were several children, mostly babies, who could not be taken back to the impossible conditions in the city.  Sister Eva rented a house next door to provide a home for these children.

Phase 2

In the spring of 1898, Sister Eva purchased new property in Glendale which they called Bethany Home.  This was the beginning of what would become 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 was made ready for its new occupants.  The people of Glendale were very generous, providing milk, provisions, 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.

How One Small Contribution Creates a Legacy

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 were 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.

Bethany Home Village

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 decided to create a cottage system for caring for the children, and Bethany Home Village was built.  Three dormitory buildings (Bethlehem, Bethel, and Bethsaida), the refectory with music rooms and library upstairs (BethEva), an infirmary (Bethesda), and a large well-equipped school house (St. Faith’s School) were completed by St. Nicholas Day, December 6, 1927.  The next year, a cottage (BethAnna, the House of Grace) was added to house the high school aged girls.  Each girl had her own room with hot and cold running water!

We become Bethany School

In 1958, it was decided to change Bethany Home to Bethany School and to admit day students.  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 forcing the boarding department to close.  Bethsaida cottage became a classroom building, and BethAnna is used by the Sisters as a retreat and guest house.

Our Evolution and Growth

Bethany School has evolved through the years.  It has grown from a single building with five babies to a campus of many buildings with 240 students.  Our educational program was originally offered to girls only but was later opened to boys.  We have changed from a boarding school to a day school.  Many changes and additions have been made to accommodate the larger number of students and to modernize the facilities.
St. Faith’s School has remained the main classroom building, but the three cottages which had housed the children of Bethany Home became classroom space for the Lower School.  Recently, we  added classroom space and a multi-purpose building (Bethany Activity Center).

Throughout the years and all of the changes, our mission has remained the same, providing academic excellence in a Christian environment to students from diverse backgrounds.

The Bethany School Historical Timeline

1898: Mother Eva Mary (Eva Lee Matthews) purchases a farmhouse in Glendale, OH and creates a one-room school known as Bethany Home which is blessed on September 29.  The Sisters of the Transfiguration is established by Mother Eva and Sister Beatrice (Beatrice Henderson).  Initial enrollment is 50 – 60 students.

1901: A new building, attached to the old farmhouse, is built to house children, lay helpers, and the Sisters.  Chapel is held in the old farmhouse ballroom.  Enrollment is 50 – 60 students.

1906: A fund is started to build a new chapel with a gift of $1.00 from a child.  This fund grows slowly for many years by means of small gifts.

1909 – 1918: Bethany Home houses boys in a cottage on the site of the present St. Faith’s.  Boys attend public school in Glendale.

1918: Bethany has its first high school graduation with 3 graduates.  The boys move to St. Edmund’s Conference Center.

1918 – 1928: Twelve grades are conducted in the old house and the old laundry (Beatrice Hope).  High School girls reside in the Beatrice Hope building.  Enrollment is 60 – 80 students.

1921: Hilaritas Hall opens.

1927: Bethany Home Village is built and is comprised of three dormitory buildings (Bethlehem, Bethel, Bethsaida), a refectory with music rooms and library (BethEva), an infirmary (Bethesda), and a large well-equipped school house (St. Faith’s).  The School is dedicated on December 6.  Bethany Home becomes certified by State Board of Education.  Construction of the Chapel begins.

1928: Mother Eva passes away on July 6.

1929: The Chapel is completed and a dedication ceremony is held on June 11.  Mother Eva is buried beneath the high altar.

1928 – 1943: All twelve grades are taught in St. Faith’s. Cottages serve as residences.  Enrollment is 80 – 90 students.

1943: Bethany Home stops offering schooling past 9th grade.

1958: Bethany Home begins admitting day students.

1959: Bethany Home becomes Bethany School.

1960: Bethany School no longer accepts high school boarders.

1963: Boys are admitted as students.

1964: New Hilaritas Hall (gym) is built.

1970: Bethany School discontinues offering 9th grade.  Enrollment is 40-50.  A new convent for the Sisters is dedicated.

1972: Boys are admitted as boarders.

1976: First boys graduate.

1977: The Boarding Department closes.

1991: A new library and computer lab are created in the converted laundry (Beatrice Hope).

1997: Hilaritas Hall is enlarged and updated with a new Music Room.

2011: An addition is made to Hilaritas Hall adding much needed classroom space.

2013: A new Bethany Activity Center with full sized gym space is completed and dedicated on September 30.

2017: During the summer, 108 geo-thermal wells were installed under the parking lot to the south of the Hilaritas building (along Oak Road) and a new storm water drainage system placed underground to the west of Hilaritas.  This marked the beginning of a new phase for Bethany School.  Construction of environmentally friendly buildings for grades 3-8 and a new dining hall were begun.

2018: In April, the entire school gathered to have photos taken by drone on the newly poured slab of the Gr 3-8 building.

The new Dining Hall with a full kitchen opened in October.  It is connected to the south side of the Hilaritas building.

2019: This was a big year!

  • June: The maintenance building was demolished and construction of new garage and maintenance building began.  Everything was moved out of Hope, St. Faith, Bethlehem Cottage, and Bethel Cottage and much of it moved into the new Bethel building. Third grade moved out of Bethsaida to the new Bethel building. Spanish moved from Bethsaida to BethEva, and Kindergarten moved to Bethsaida temporarily.
  • August 14th:  The Bethel and Bethlehem Cottages were demolished.  These buildings had stood for 92 years and each came down in less than two hours!  It was sad to see them go, however, rising out of the debris is the future K-2 building which will be called Bethlehem
  • August 21: The new Bethel building for Grades 3-8 opened on the first day of school.  It was built on the green space which was formerly the kickball field and playground.  A new playscape between Hilaritas and Bethel was installed as well as a new kickball field to the south of Hilaritas.  All students were given a tour of the new building.  The dedication and blessing were conducted by the presiding Episcopal Bishop, Michael Curry, on September 11, 2019.
  • September/October: Site work began on the new Bethlehem building in early September, and the slab was poured in early October.  Construction began in earnest afterward.
  • December: The maintenance building was completed.