In 1926 Mrs. Paul Offill and 12 members of the Daughters of Current Events Club raised funds to rent a room on Weirich Avenue to conduct community cooking classes. In 1927 a second room was rented for sewing classes and the agency’s first part time employee was hired to teach the classes. From 1928 to 1932 a Boy’s Club was started with the assistance of Washington and Jefferson College volunteers.
By 1934 an entire house was acquired for the combined activities and it was named the Weirich Avenue Settlement House. A resident worker was hired and the first Governing Board was formed by the association. The Weirich Avenue Settlement House joined the local Community Chest (now the United Way) in 1935. The agency name was changed to the Neighborhood House Association. The organization was moved to the Tyler Tube and Pipe Company building on Jefferson Avenue in 1937. Former Washington County Judge James I. Brownson purchased the building, and it was renamed in his honor, upon his death, The Brownson House.
From the late thirties to the mid forties The Brownson House offered softball, basketball, cooking and sewing classes under the direction of Catherine Donaldson.
From the mid forties to the early fifties the activities were under the direction of Joseph Julian. In 1952 Art Sandusky was hired and he helped boost the activities and rejuvenate community interest in the facility. A loyal friend and supporter of The Brownson House was T. S. Fitch. He donated many hours and dollars to the organization’s efforts. Along with Washington Steel, Fitch greatly assisted The Brownson House when it was time to build a new gymnasium. The gym was opened and dedicated as the T. S. Fitch Memorial Gymnasium in 1962.
Sandusky remained director for more than thirty years, and greatly expanded programs for the community during this time.
1980 a new playground was built on the corner of Allison and McAdam Avenues.
Daniel Petrola joined The Brownson House in 1976 as boys director and was later promoted to assistant Director. In 1985, he became Executive Director of the Brownson House. Jon Celani joined The Brownson House staff in 1988 as Assistant Director.
In September of 2004 the Vernon C. Neal Sportsplex opened its doors at 200 Dunn Ave. in the Washington Park. The facility has a turf surface for the Fall and Winter programs which include soccer for the youths and adults and flag football for youth and adults. In the spring we put down a multipurpose hard floor for basketball, inline hockey, and volleyball.
The building of this facility was accomplished with the co-operation of the City of Washington, Brownson House, and the Vernon C. Neal Foundation.
Jon Celani became the Executive Director of the Brownson House, overseeing both facilities after Dan Petola retired at the end of 2016. The general manager of the Vernon C. Neal Sportsplex is Harry Sanders.
Since 1926 The Brownson House and its predecessors have helped shape the lives of many of the young men and women of the area. The programs may change throughout the years, but the purpose of the organization has remained constant – to offer a source of community and indiviual growth through team effort.
The Brownson House has a long community oriented history, which it continues to build upon today.
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