A remarkable building stands at the patriotic address of 1776 E. Broad St. in Columbus.

A remarkable building stands at the patriotic address of 1776 E. Broad St. in Columbus.

Opening in 1888, the massive brick edifice across the street from Franklin Park served for many years as the Columbus Home for the Aged. The first private facility of its kind in Columbus, the home offered an alternative to the poorhouse for "the care, support and maintenance of old people."

Originally intended only for older women, the home soon began to admit men, as well. It was a successful undertaking for many years and kept its doors open until 1981, closing due to the rising costs of maintaining an old building.

When the building was threatened with possible demolition, I became involved with others in trying to find a new use for this beautiful structure.

Those who entered the building through its massive front doors encountered a long, wide hall with high ceilings and spacious, sweeping stairwells leading to the upper floors. The building was empty then, and footsteps echoed in the dim light of the halls.

Folks who looked to the right upon entering found themselves eye to eye with the black stone bust of a bearded man on a pedestal.

The story of a dedicated group of women determined to build a home for poor widows has been told before. The ladies held a ball at the Princess ice rink and raised $1,000 -- an immense sum at that time. They also held a "French market" with musical acts and a bazaar that netted another $2,000. The women then found a temporary home for a few widows in an empty Broad Street mansion. Now they needed a permanent home.

One of the women was Maria Brunson Monypenny. She asked her husband for assistance. His name was William Monypenny, and he decided to help. Because it is his bust that resides in the home's hallway, it is fair to say he was of some aid to the cause.

He donated the land for the home, paid architect William Stribling to design it and personally supervised its construction.

William Monypenny was born in County Armagh, Ireland, on Oct. 10, 1829. After receiving a basic education in the common schools of his homeland, he left Ireland at age 19 during the Irish Potato Famine and came to America in 1848. He soon entered into the employ of John Kugler.

Kugler was a prosperous grain merchant doing business in Milford, near Cincinnati. Over the next few years, Monypenny learned the business of buying and selling grain and the techniques to distill that grain into something more portable -- and potable.

He also made the acquaintance of a miller in Clermont County named William Brunson. He met and married Brunson's daughter, Maria, in 1854.

Seeking new opportunities, he moved to Lockbourne that same year and joined the grain business of Perin, Cohoon and Co.

Lockbourne got its name for a series of linked locks at the place where the Columbus Feeder Canal joined the main line of the Ohio and Erie Canal.

In a short time, Monypenny bought out his partners and established his own company. He made money and acquired a reputation as a skilled trader.

In 1863, as the Civil War raged, Monypenny decided his future would be in commerce other than grain, and the place to find that future was Columbus. He took his wife and two sons and came to the capital city.

Over the next 20 years, Monypenny had a successful if somewhat peripatetic business career. He moved from one enterprise to another, always seeking his best choice for a career.

He became vice president and eventually president of First National Bank. He was the president of the Columbus Machine Co. for many years and was for a time the president of the local electric company.

In the end, he found his niche in the wholesale grocery business with local grocer Archibald Hammond. The Monypenny-Hammond Co. was founded in 1888 and would be a Columbus landmark near Union Station for many years.

Monypenny and his wife were lifelong members of Trinity Episcopal Church and contributed both time and money to several charities. Among them was the Columbus Home for the Aged.

Monypenny died Oct. 10, 1899. He is buried with his family in Green Lawn Cemetery.

It was said of him at that time: "A man whom to know was to respect and honor, he left the impress of his individuality upon the material development of the city, was prominent in its commercial and financial interests and labored for the good of his fellowmen in many ways."

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.