Oct 2003 Journal

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End of an era at Eleanor Rathbone House

First opened in 1964 to provide sheltered accommodation for elderly Jewish refugees, Eleanor Rathbone House, a strikingly modern 12-storey block of studio flats in Highgate, North London, has been sold at auction for £5.7 million. Named after the social pioneer and MP who fought for the entry into Britain of refugees from Nazi persecution, it no longer serves the needs or preferences of today's potential clientele. Vacant flats have not been reoccupied and the remaining tenants have already been provided with appropriate accommodation.

Eleanor Rathbone House was built as a joint project by the Association of Jewish Refugees and the Central British Fund (CBF), the then recipient of West German reparation funds. The Otto Schiff Housing Association (OSHA), which in 1991 took over the ownership and management of a number of homes from the CBF, of which Eleanor Rathbone was one, will be the main beneficiary of the sale after the repayment of mortgages and other outstanding loans. Responsibility for the running of OSHA, and of this home, was accepted by Jewish Care three years ago.

When Eleanor Rathbone House was built it represented a new concept in independent living for the elderly. But people's requirements have changed, especially as they are now so much older when they enter residential care. The home's location, on a hill and somewhat remote from shops and buses, is far less accessible and people now prefer separate living rooms and bedrooms to studio flats.
Ruth Rothenberg

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