The origins of today’s Barron Center date back to the early 1800s when the City of Portland established an “Alms House” on Portland Street. Its purpose was for the care of the City’s poor, elderly and mentally disabled. By 1870 the Alms House was replaced with the Greely Hospital. By 1902-1904 operations improved with a new structure on the present site of the Loring House at 1125 Brighton Avenue. Two buildings were constructed, the Farrington Hospital provided medical, surgical and pediatric services; the Boothby Home provided a residence to the City’s vulnerable and homeless citizens.
By the end of World War II both facilities were overcrowded and the City decided to merge the two facilities into one. It became Portland City Hospital in 1946, under the direction of Mathew I. Barron. The newly named facility continued to provide medical and surgical care in addition to caring for people who had “chronic” conditions. Mathew’s wife, Evelyn, was a registered nurse and became the Matron of City Hospital. The two always had an eye on new and improved services, especially for the most vulnerable citizens of Portland. In the 1950s these services included rehabilitation services and training programs for nurse aides.
It was in the 1960s that Portland City Hospital’s mission began to evolve and focus on extended nursing care for the elderly, chronically ill and disabled individuals. Matt and Evelyn worked tirelessly to change the perception of care provided by the City. They endorsed a more humanitarian approach that focused on individual needs, an idea that was revolutionary at that time. In 1966 the Medicare program started and Portland City Hospital was certified to participate as an extended care facility. In 1974 the facility was accredited by the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Hospitals as a long term care facility and two years later withdrew from the acute care program completely.
Matt and Evelyn Barron were pioneers for today’s nursing homes. They never heard of “culture change” but they knew care had to be more individualized and compassionate. The Barron’s retired in 1974 and left a legacy that we live up to today- kind and compassionate care based on individual preferences and needs. In 1982 the Mathew I. & Evelyn A. Barron Center was opened as a tribute to their combined hard work, commitment and dedication to "do the right thing."