The House of Refuge was located on the site where Wentworth Lodge now stands, at the south east corner of South Street and Lynden Avenue. This area was originally part of Ancaster Township. It was built on the site of the Newitt farm and was operated by the County of Wentworth, which had responsibility for providing such housing to the aged, and for “indigent” persons.
The minutes of the Wentworth County Council report that in 1910 the provincial government had compelled the county to provide a house of refuge, and the issue was resolved at court in February 1910. The Province insisted upon it, despite a suggestion of using the already existing House of Providence run by the Sisters of St. Joseph.
As a result, a special committee on the House of Refuge was assigned to search for a site. Later in 1910 they reported on the purchase of the Newitt property, which consisted of 88 acres. A bylaw passed in December of that year authorized the purchase. They also made arrangements with the House of Providence for the temporary housing of the county’s “indigents”. The corner stone for the building was laid in May 1911 by Warden Lawson, and the home was opened in 1912, with 24 residents.
The institution was placed under the direction of a Superintendant and a Matron, hired by the County, and Dr. T.A. Bertram of Dundas was appointed as the home’s physician.
From the start, the home was intended to be self-sufficient, and the surrounding grounds were used for farming, with the abler “inmates” assisting with the work. Livestock, eggs, grain, and produce were among the farm’s output. Some was sold to the public for revenue, which was regularly listed in reports to the County Council. In 1915, it was reported that land was to be set aside for a cemetery.
Over the following years, the number of residents steadily increased. Around 1938, the House of Refuge was re-named Wentworth County Home for the Aged. In 1953 the name was changed to Wentworth Lodge.