Ron Biddle of Carlisle traveled more than 200 miles to look at Glen Dale Children’s Home one final time Saturday as the property was being sold at auction.
The property that once housed troubled and orphaned children and closed five years ago included more than 272 acres and 13 decaying structures broken up into 10 tracts sold Saturday for more than $1.77 million, including buyer’s premium. The sale averaged more than $5,900 an acre.
Biddle, who stayed at the home from 1989 to 1993, walked around the property, took pictures of dilapidated buildings and fondly remembered his time spent there.
“I came back to see it one last time, knowing the fact that in a year it’s going to be gone,” he said. “I’m sad about it. It’s changed a whole lot. Everyone knew us as the ‘home kids,’ but the community didn’t treat us any differently.”
Biddle bounced around from foster homes to state agencies since the age of 7 and finally came to stay at a place that “felt like home.”
“It was more of a family setting,” he said. “We had the option to do the right or do the wrong, but we watched out for everybody. We were one big family.”
The home not only provided a safe environment for the children, but a chance to explore interests and participate in 4-H programs, he said.
“Kids were assigned their own animal,” Biddle said.
He said each child was responsible for grooming, feeding and caring for their animals, including horses and cows, that would then compete in county fairs. Biddle was in the horse program.
When the auction began, Biddle had to walk away, saying he “couldn’t stand to hear them auction it off.”
Don Summers of Glendale who leases 180 acres of the property for farming corn and soybeans, watched as his future stake in the property remained in question.
“If a farmer bought it, it’s gone,” he said. “If investors bought it, I might have a shot (retaining the lease).”
Summers, who rode a bus to school with children from the home, said the home is only a portion of the nearly 1,500 acres he farms. He has farmed the children’s home property since 1973.
“I’m not bitter,” he said. “It’s just 180 less crop grounds I’ll have.”
More than 29 bidders registered for the auction, but the property eventually landed in the hands of four buyers – Caleb Bland, the Green family and Richard Preston and Dennis Parrett. The fourth buyer, who bought the tract containing Village of Glendale Children’s Home, wished to remain unnamed, said Ed Durnil, CEO of Tranzon Asset Advisors.
“The auction went great,” Durnil said. “The sellers were happy and the buyers were happy.”
Sunrise Children’s Services, the successor to Kentucky Baptist Children’s Home that previously oversaw the property, benefited from the sale.
Don Suttles, acting president of Sunrise, said he was pleased with the turnout of about 130 attendees.
“A lot of people there were truly interested in the property,” he said. “We were very pleased with the great crowd and very excited about the future potential there.”
Although Suttles said the service is looking forward to the future, the auction caused “melancholy” because of all the lives the ministry touched over the home’s long history.
“It is a sacred place,” he said. “The kids worked there and went to school there. There are a lot of success stories. So many kids had their lives changed there. That place will always be a big portion of our past.”
The home, at 2125 Gilead Church Road, opened in 1915 but closed in 2009 when Sunrise Children’s Services opened a new center east of Elizabethtown. The former facility, which had cottages, an administration building and a gymnasium, was closed because administrators preferred having all operations under one roof.
According to Durnil, fewer than 10 owners have held the title for the 200-year-old property that neighbors the 1,550-acre Glendale industrial megasite.
“The future of the property is immense,” he said.