Activities on March 15 mark the anniversary of the founding of the occupational therapy profession.

CLIFTON SPRINGS — George Barton was in poor health when he arrived in Clifton Springs in 1914.

The architect and Massachusetts native (1871-1923) suffered from bouts of tuberculosis along with paralysis on one side of his body, among other ailments. In the process of his own rehabilitation, he helped establish the occupational therapy profession.

One hundred years ago, on March 15, 1917, a small group of pioneers in the occupational therapy profession gathered at Barton’s home on Broad Street in the village and founded the National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy, now named the American Occupational Therapy Association Inc. (AOTA).

Barton’s future wife, Isabel Newton, was among those present. The residence, now privately owned, became known as the Consolation House. Barton adapted the home and an old barn to serve as a school, workshop, and vocational bureau for convalescents. An adjacent lot was transformed into a garden.

A day-long celebration on March 15 will mark the anniversary of the founding of the association. Events will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Foster Cottage Museum. Cake will be served from noon to 1 p.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. at the East Main Street museum.

Clifton Springs Village Mayor Bill Hunter has issued a proclamation honoring Barton and the other founders.

“We recognize those that came before us and helped pave the way for the quality of life and advances we enjoy today,” Steven Egidi said. He is a registered and licensed occupational therapist who owns Hand & Occupational Therapy, a practice with locations in Clifton Springs and Geneva.

“Our goal should be to honor this legacy and build upon it for future generations,” Egidi said.

Village Historian Jim Conners has been readying a special centennial display on George Barton and the Consolation House at the museum, formerly the home of Dr. Henry Foster (1821-1901). Foster, attracted by the village’s high sulphur water, started the “Water Cure” around 1850, which later evolved into the Clifton Springs Hospital and Clinic and is also featured in museum exhibits. This year the museum guest book records numerous visitors from local colleges like Keuka College and Bryant and Stratton College where occupational therapy programs are offered.

Conners, who has faced personal health challenges since experiencing a stroke a few years ago, said he is inspired by individuals like George Barton who worked diligently on his own rehabilitation while contributing to the welfare of others and the healthy environment of the village.

Egidi said he did not know of the connection with the Consolation House at the time he opened his Clifton Springs office in 2003.

“I quickly became aware of the connection through discussions with clients and consider it an honor and privilege to be part of the legacy,” Egidi said. The University of Buffalo graduate said his practice primarily focuses on upper extremity injuries, custom orthotic fabrication, and functional capacity evaluations.

“We have helped thousands of clients regain their independence and return to their occupations,” said Egidl, whose staff includes Practice Manager Taryn Millerd, a 2006 Midlakes graduate, and Kasey Wild, a 2011 Canandaigua Academy graduate.

Looking ahead

The Clifton Springs Chamber of Commerce has had the occupational therapy centennial celebration on its agenda for several years, said Steven Egidi, a chamber officer. A committee of chamber members, Clifton Springs Village Historian Jim Conners and representatives from Nazareth, Keuka, and Bryant and Stratton colleges are among those planning a large celebration for Saturday, June 3, during the Sulphur Springs Festival.

For information on the March 15 celebration at Foster Cottage Museum, call 315-462-7394. For details on the June 3 activities, contact the chamber at 315-462-8200 or info@cliftonspringschamber.com. For more information on the festival, visit www.sulphurspringsfestival.com.