Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Schenectady County Almshouse and Almshouse Records in the Library

About the Schenectady County Almshouse

Schenectady County Poor Farm, ca. 1880.  Photograph from
the Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.
The Schenectady County Almshouse, also called the Poor House or the County Home, was first established in 1826 under the county board of supervisors. In that year, the county took over the operation of a city almshouse and farm that had been established around 1815, on the summit that would later be known as Hamilton Hill. Henry Clute, the first county "poor-house keeper," provided food and clothing for the inmates. In return, Clute was allowed the farm's products, use of the buildings, and use of the labor of able-bodied inmates. Beginning in 1860, a member of the County Board was required to visit the Poor House weekly to examine the management, condition, and usage of the farm and inmates. By 1879, the position of "poor-house keeper" was abolished and the duties of overseeing operations was assumed by a superintendent of the poor, who resided on the grounds.

In 1892, state law authorized the Board of Supervisors to sell the Poor House farm and buildings and to lay out streets in the area for house construction. In 1903, three interconnected brick buildings were built and opened for the Almshouse on the former plot of the farm, in an area bounded by Emmett Street, Brandywine Avenue, Duane Avenue, and Steuben Street. The County Home would operate here until 1936.

Schenectady County Home, ca. 1903. Photograph from the
Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.
In 1935, the county built a new County Home and farm on Hetcheltown Road in Glenville, which began accepting residents in 1936. The name of the County Home was changed to Glendale Home in 1962. The County Home's former building on Steuben Street was occupied by the Schenectady Museum from 1938 until 1968. Soon after the Schenectady Museum relocated to its current location on Nott Terrace Heights, the building was demolished and construction began on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School on the old almshouse site.



Schenectady Almshouse Records Index, 1875-1920

Sample almshouse record card.
In 1896, the New York State Legislature passed legislation requiring officers of public almshouses and poorhouses to submit an annual census of inmates to the State Board of Charities. At a state conference of Superintendents of the Poor, a committee developed a standard form for reporting information about each inmate. The Historical Society has a microfilm copy of these records for the poorhouse in Schenectady County, New York, as well as a smaller number of almshouse records from Saratoga, Schoharie, and Seneca counties. A searchable index of the Grems-Doolittle Library's microfilm holdings of almshouse records can be found here. Society staff will make copies of a card if you submit the request form. Although the Library's holdings of almshouse records span the years from 1875 to 1920, there are often gaps of one or more years in the census returns from a particular county. Most records in are in the 1900-1919 time period.

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