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Civic League is...




The original house was built on the site in 1861. Dr. Will Mayo and his wife, Hattie, remodeled the home in 1910 as a wedding present for their daughter, Carrie Mayo, and her new husband Dr. Donald Balfour.

Women's Civic League Inc. of Rochester formed in 1887. The original members were primarily churchwomen who teamed up to help identify unmet community needs and to initiate programs when none existed.


In 1926, Civic League inherited a large house through the will of the Woodworth sisters, who had been active Civic League members. In 1930, Civic League opened the home as a day nursery for children of working mothers. It occupied only one room on the main floor.

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The land where the Historic Balfour Home is located today was originally inhabited by Native Americans including Dakota /Sioux, Ojibway, and Winnebago.


Property records show that this site has been in continual occupancy since 1861, shortly after the City of Rochester was founded in 1854.


In the late 19th century, Eleazer Damon, a pioneer resident of Rochester, and his wife, Caroline, had a home on this site, which incorporated portions of the 1861 dwelling and is part of the current residence. Mr. Damon owned a jewelry store and served as city alderman. Mr. and Mrs. Damon’s daughter, Hattie, attended Carleton College and married William J, Mayo, M.D. (Dr. Will), on this site in 1884. At that time, the street in front of the house was known as Glencoe Street.


Hattie Mayo inherited the house from her parents. She and Dr. Will remodeled it as a wedding gift to their eldest daughter, Carrie, who married a Canadian physician, Donald C. Balfour, M.D., in 1910, shortly after her graduation from Wellesley College; Dr. and Mrs. Balfour lived here for fifty years.


Dr. Balfour began his medical career as a surgeon. After he developed tuberculosis, he could no longer perform operations and shifted his focus to Mayo Clinic’s educational programs. Under his leadership, generations of physicians received advanced, specialized training. They joined the staff of Mayo Clinic and practiced elsewhere, spreading Mayo’s ideals of excellence in patient care, education and research throughout the United States and internationally. A large meeting room in Mayo Foundation House, the former home of Dr. William J. and Hattie D. Mayo located a few blocks away, is named Balfour Hall in honor of Dr. Balfour.


During their residence here, Dr. and Mrs. Balfour made the home a center of hospitality and fellowship for their family and a wide circle of friends. In 1916, they added the west end of the house and a half-story above the second floor.


In 1960, Dr. and Mrs. Balfour moved to 322 Eighth Ave. S.W. and donated this home to Mayo Foundation.  The house was leased to the Rochester YMCA in 1961 and to the Senior Citizen Day Center in 1966.  Civic League Day Nursery received the house in 1975 in an exchange of properties with Mayo Clinic.

At the time, Civic League's permit stated that not more than 12 children, ages 2 to 5, were to be present at any given time. The custodial care included the giving of orange juice and cod liver oil during morning and afternoon snack times, noon lunch followed by a nap, and supervised free play.


In 1945, Civic League expanded the nursery by adding the use of a second room and enlarging the bathroom. This allowed the program to hold 20 children, ages 3 to 5.


Around 1958, the concept of providing only custodial care for children in daycare was viewed as inappropriate and the requirements for state licensing were raised. Civic League began hiring directors and head teachers who were professionally qualified in education or related fields. A licensed, well-staffed day care center evolved, offering an enriched child-care program.


In 1975, Civic League Day Nursery moved into the historic Balfour Home, where they are proudly located today. The program is licensed to hold 84 children, ages 16 months to 5 years.


Women's Civic League Inc. officially changed to Civic League Day Nursery in 2000 to reflect the board's current charter, which is to set policy and oversee the overall operations of the oldest and best nursery school in Rochester, and to recognize the addition of men to the Board.

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