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Originally established in 1847 as a small frame building, Madison Seminary's purpose was educational, providing access to higher learning for men and women in Lake County and the surrounding area. By 1859, a larger structure was added to the original building, which was converted to serve as a boarding hall for up to 150 students enrolled there at one point. The buildings continued to function as halls of education until 1891 when the property was purchased by the Ohio Woman's Relief Corps.
Reconditioned at that time to render help for Army nurses from the Civil War, as well as wives, sisters, and mothers of soldiers, the property became the National Relief Corp Home.
After considering locations throughout the nation, the Madison Seminary was deemed the best location. The people of Madison and Geneva donated the building, along with 10 acres of land and $1,000 cash.
For such an undertaking, the singular facility was soon outgrown. At the time, a plan emerged for such a facility in each state and Ohio was the first and ultimately only state to construct a 'suitable cottage home for the indigent mothers and widows ... of the late war,' according to historical records.
The National Relief Corps Home's most notable resident during this period was Elizabeth Stiles. During the Civil War, Stiles, from Ashtabula, was recruited by President Abraham Lincoln to serve as a spy and dispatch bearer for the Union. Following the war, she took up residence at the home until her death in 1898, when she was interred at the cemetery adjacent to the property.
The building as it stands today, recognizable to visitors by its stone archway carved with 'Ohio Cottage,' was an addition built by the Woman's Relief Corps on the site of the original small frame wood structure in 1891. By 1904, the WRC was unable to continue maintaining the facility and donated it to the State of Ohio.
By 1962, the WRC Madison Home ceased operations and was put under management by the Ohio Department of Mental Hygiene and Corrections. Residents at the time, the widows were returned to the care of relatives or, since many of them had no living relatives, placed in nursing home care.
For the next few decades, the property changed hands, and functions, several times. For a time inmates from the Ohio Women's Reformatory were housed there, and later the building was used by various medical facilities as an extension of their housing for mentally disabled, aged or senile women.
In the 1970s, all operations at the facility ceased, and the Lake County commissioners acquired the buildings from the state and leased them to Madison Township for use as administrative offices until a new facility was built on Hubbard Road.
By this time, the building was on the National Historic Register, and its fate remained uncertain for over a decade. Years of disuse had let the building fall into disrepair, and for a time, it looked as though it would be demolished.
It was around this time that local officials and employees who'd worked in the building began suggesting that the place might house ghosts.
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