When Levi Hutton set out to build a children’s home in 1919, one of his main goals was that the campus would be standing for 250 years.
Today the Hutton Settlement remains standing, serving for a century as an alternative to foster care. However, few renovations had been done on the cottages, making the buildings increasingly impractical for the care the children’s home now provides.
“One of the things that has changed is the type of care that we provide now,” said Chud Wendle, Hutton’s executive director.
Initially, Hutton Settlement children slept on sleeping porches, but today the children often need privacy to feel safe, Wendle said. Privacy was lacking throughout the four cottages that housed about 32 children both in the bedroom and bathroom setups, he said.
“The privacy was nothing,” Wendle said, of the old open style bathrooms.
So, Hutton Settlement appealed to their donors asking for help renovating the cottages to create more bedrooms and more private bathrooms, Wendle said.
When Walt and Karen Worthy, owners of the Davenport Hotel Collection, heard about the need, they took care of it.
“This is where Walt and Karen stepped in and he got it,” Wendle said. “He’s like, ‘I get your vision, I get what you do and I want to do the whole thing.’ ”
When the Worthys came out to tour the cottages, the list of improvements quickly grew, Wendle said.
Walt Worthy saw the outdated but functional kitchens and insisted they should be remodeled to serve as the heart of the home with a massive kitchen island for the kids to sit and do their homework, while chatting with their house parents, Wendle said.
He saw the mismatched furniture and heard about the hot August days without AC that left the third floor bedrooms at 100 degrees and decided to fix that too, Wendle recalled.
New plumbing, electrical wiring and new air conditioning were added to the basic renovation plan, and Worthy assigned his own contractor team for the work.
“Our service was so bad that we would burn out bulbs all the time,” Wendle said of the antique wiring.
All in all, the renovations cost about $1 million per cottage, Wendle said.
The Worthys have purposely kept a low profile related to the $4 million project and declined an interview with The Spokesman-Review.
Instead they offered a written statement:
“We felt that it was important we raise our hand and support the efforts of the Hutton Settlement in a way that made sense for us. We are good at construction and specialize in preserving the historic nature of buildings, and making people comfortable,” the Worthys wrote. “We helped them increase their capacity to help more kids, while making the appropriate updates to the cottages so they would continue to feel safe, healthy and happy.”
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic, students were moved into three cottages while the first cottage was under construction. Despite the pandemic, they were able to finish each cottage in about three months finishing the last one in April.
Serenity, a 15-year-old in the care of Hutton, has taken full advantage of the renovation, moving to a new room every time they need a volunteer, she said.
The high school freshman spent two days unpacking her first room.
“I decorated it and I absolutely loved it.”
She wants to be an interior designer some day and said she loves how clean and organized the new cottages feel with white walls and matching floors and furniture.
The house parents who live in the cottages received new rooms, too. Instead of shared bathrooms with other parents’ rooms, house parents now have their own private suite, Wendle explained.
Not only did the renovation brighten up the cottages, it increased capacity by 25%. The campus can now comfortably house 40 children with potential for a few more if sibling groups are sharing a bedroom.
The first phase of renovations on the administration building began immediately after the cottages were complete, Wendle said. While the Worthys didn’t fund the administration building renovations, the Worthys’ contractors did complete the work funded by other donors.
The administration building has transitional housing for Hutton teens and young adults to use as they graduate from high school but before they’re equipped to be completely out on their own, Wendle said.
The new transitional housing wing was finished Friday and boasts new bathrooms, two suite-style rooms for staff who live on campus but not in the cottages and a brand new communal kitchen.
Renovations will hopefully continue throughout the year on the front offices of the administration building and then on to an addition that will house the Hutton Settlement offices. It would be the first new construction on the campus since its creation in 1919.
The biggest change for Campus Director Dave Milliken isn’t the physical space but how it makes the kids feel, he said.
“Everything looks so nice and beautiful and I think what that provides is these kids walk into something and it just feels warm and inviting,” he said. “I really think the testament is we do this for you, you’re valuable enough to have something great like this.”
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