Season of Inspiration: A Need Becomes a Vision
Kirkwood opened its doors on an early Spring day in 1980 when the first resident, Ms. Francis Cannon moved in, but the inspiration of Kirkwood had begun nearly 30 years earlier and took many people, including ministers, corporate leaders, architects and whole congregations to bring to reality. In the early 1950's, a group of Presbyterian women began to talk about the need for an "economical facility for seniors to live out their lives in security and comfort". One of these women, Mrs. Eugene C. Ireland, would, with her husband will an endowment that became the "Ireland Fund" which would grow to become a main source of funding for the facility they had in their lifetimes only imagined. As the fund grew, so did the need. In 1965, over 95% of Presbyterian congregations put housing and care for the elderly as a top priority, resulting in a Ministries for The Elderly being created. They first proposed an apartment facility for the elderly on church property, but as funding and a more appropriate site were pursued, there was a growing feeling among the members that their original vision of housing without care and support services would not be adequate. They subsequently approved a concept for a facility that provides complete lifetime care which still defines Kirkwood today. On November 15, 1975, the Presbyterian Retirement Homes of Birmingham was incorporated, with the congregation accepting their recommendation for a continuing care community and Kirkwood by the River was begun.
A Great Site for a Great Vision
Committees were formed, and plans drawn up for not only apartments but a chapel, library, dining hall and beauty parlor. A model of what the community would be was not only sought in other retirement facilities, but in resorts such as Big Canoe in north Georgia. This feeling that the community should be anything but institutional made the location of a building site challenging. Inside city limits land was exorbitant and space would necessitate a high-rise. Then a committee member remembered a 68 acre site that rose above the Cahaba River. Not only was this site more in their price range, the members guessed correctly that the location would only grow in value and convenience as the 1-459 Interchange opened.
An Inspired Architect Draws Up Plans. Kirkwood Draws Members.
Once the site was purchased, funding was raised from the Birmingham, Alabama corporate community, Ralph Beeson, the Meyer Foundation and congregation members of Independent Presbyterian, with most funding generated from bonds issued by the City of Leeds Medical Clinic Board. As construction plans progressed, the renowned architect Henry Spott Long was retained to design the facility. Suggestions were solicited for a name, with Kirkwood coming from a combination of the Scottish word "kirk" for church, and "wood" which described its setting. The word for church in Kirkwood's name became a wonderful reality with Ralph Beeson's gift of funds for a chapel. As construction began to rise on the site, decorators and landscapers were contracted, but congregation members also freely gave their time and vision to making the grounds home-like and verdant. When Mrs. C. Pratt Rather saw a depressing mound of red clay outside the Special Care Wing, she raised $10,000 to create a patio and Memorial Garden. As construction was completed and even a model apartment was open to the public, hiring staff became a priority. This was made easier by the closing of a hospital in Leeds, which provided a pool of well-trained and dedicated staff. As the doors opened, nameplates began to appear on doors and residents moved in. Often, treasured antiques that would not fit in residents' apartments, were donated to furnish public spaces in Kirkwood with warmth and elegance. Soon more and more new faces were seen in the dining hall of the independent living wing, and in 1981 the assisted living wing now known as Riverview began welcoming residents, with Skyview opening in 1983. The church member's original vision of a Christian community of individuals who had voluntarily come together for happiness, companionship and security that served the senior community's continuum of needs was now a reality.
the Art BlockA Congregation's Vision Becomes a Community
Over the years, the Presbyterian community, from boy scout troops who helped build walking trails to church leaders who raised funds to landscape gardens, have helped the vision of Kirkwood become a model and example for other retirement communities. The Residents Association continues this in their daily work to staff the library, improve the decor and, most importantly, volunteer in the skilled nursing and specialty care wings. Kirkwood is now sought out by those who want to move in, and pointed out by those who see Kirkwood as the direction retirement communities should move towards.
Independent Living
Seasons of Discovery
Discover a way of life that offers a full set of services that set you free. Discover independent living where you can always depend on getting the best from life and from us.
Assisted Living
Seasons of Warmth
Helping hands can keep life within your reach. Our assisted living meets your daily needs while never forgetting what you need most. Independence.
Memory Care
Seasons of Trust
Care for mild to moderate memory loss that puts loved ones minds at rest, and puts you close to friends and family at Kirkwood.
Skilled Nursing
Seasons of Strength
Compassionate, cutting edge rehabilitation care for when you need to regain your strength, and highly skilled long term care for when you need to lean on ours.