One big change that affected the everyday and overall lives of the children came in the 1960s, when the Palmer Home began moving its children out of big traditional dorm-like buildings to on-campus individual homes. This idea, which was new to the times and especially new in the south, was a move toward more family-style living. The cottages, as the houses are quaintly called, were designed for 6 – 8 children to live with a set of houseparents, the overall effect resembling a much more “normal” family life.
Palmer Home transport: vans, bikes, trikes, and toy cars.
My guide around Palmer Home that fine spring day told me a particularly poignant story behind one of the early cottages. In 1967, there was a catastrophic midair collision between a Piedmont Airlines Boeing 727 and a twin-engine Cessna over Henderson, North Carolina. Everyone aboard the two planes was killed, 82 people in all, including three from Columbus: J. Dudley Hutchinson, the owner of a wholesale food company, his son of the same name, and a new employee, C.L. Hutcherson. They did not leave orphans, but they did, in effect, leave a gift to the orphanage, which came in the form of a memorial fund from the people of Columbus. Today that is Hutchinson House, one of the first of the 7 cottages there now.
The main building, called the Lindamood Building, of the Palmer Home looks as grand as many of the private ante-bellum homes that grace Columbus, especially considering it was built as an institution. Lindamood housed children back in the day, and it now houses administrative offices, a big kitchen and a dining room that can hold all the kids.
Homes around the recreation areas.
The residential cottages, long one-story ranch-style in design, are set around the main lawns with a playground, basketball court, and lots of running space.
A Palmer Home resident.
Horses and stables are off to one side; a baseball diamond and a swimming pool off to another. There is also a gym. When I visited, some boys were playing basketball, and one girl was skipping across the lawn and another was trotting by on a horse. The campus sprawls over 110 acres, amounting to a small farm with vegetables, orchards and 12 big greenhouses, which were abloom with all sorts of flowers, including my favorite gerber daisies.
The farming is a source of revenue for the Palmer Home, from produce they sell at the local farmers’ market to their new venture, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program where people buy a season subscription for fresh produce. It is also a source for the children to learn farming skills and to earn pocket money by working on the farm.
Inside the greenhouse.
There is also school space on the grounds, where some of the kids are home-schooled. Most, however, fan out to public and private schools around town, whichever seems to be the best match. There is an abundance of supplemental opportunities and support – camping and fishing trips, trips to Disney parks, service trips, tutors, therapists.