Delaware County Almshouse

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Delaware County Almshouse
Established February 13, 1804
Construction Began 1804
Opened 1804 (original site), May 1856 (Second site)
Current Status Active
Architect(s) John Eves & Company
Location Media, PA (original); Lima, PA (second)
Alternate Names *Delaware County Home
  • Delaware County Poor Farm
  • Delaware County House of Employment
  • Fair Acres Farm
  • Fair Acres Geriatric Center


The Delware County Almshouse was established on Freburary 13th, 1804 in order to provide a house of support and employment for the poor of Delaware county. That same year a site was chosen adjoining the present town of Media. The farm initially consisted of 137 acres purchased for $33 each; later another 21 acres were purchased at $100 an acre bringing the farms total size to 158 acres. When the poor house was finally completed and ready for occupancy all the poor of the county were sent there. Prior to this the counties poor were boarded for in various Townships in private homes under the charge of two Overseers of the Poor per Township. This original poor house was a stone structure measuring 100x40 feet. The poor continued to be cared for at this location for fifty years.

In 1848 the decision was made to move the Delaware County seat from the City of Chester to a move central location. The location chosen was what today is Media Pennsylvania, which remains the seat of the county. In accordance with this the Board of Commissioners soon purchased 48 acres from Sarah Brigs for $5760, located adjacent to the poor farm property. The property was then sold in plots imminently at an enormous profit. The creation of public buildings and a town greatly increased land values and soon the idea of removing the County Almshouse to another location was suggested. This was for the best as the current structure was found not to be optimal for its duty and allowed for a large and modern farm to be constructed while producing profit for the County. An act of May 8, 1854 authorized the sale of the poor farm property which was sold to Media in two tracts, first a 48 acre tract at $250 an acre, and the final 112 acres at 341.50 per acre.

From the 50,000 profit from the sale of the old property the Board of Directors purchased 103 acres from the farm of Abraham Pennell near Lima, PA. The new poor farm buildings were built between 1856 and 1857 by John Eves & Company, opening in May of 1857. The main measured 91 by 27 feet and consisted of a three story high stone structure with a cemented front. As usual male and female paupers were separated by wing, with a separate hospital room being set aside for each. In the center read of the building was the kitchen. It was heated by stoves and did have water closets at the time of construction. It was made to accommodate 130 people.

In 1863 a separate building for the insane was constructed to the rear of the almshouse. This building was 45.5x33.5 feet in diameter, made of stone and two stories high with a basement story below. The basement was used for storage while the other two were used for female insane paupers as well as housing for the attendant. In 1873 an identical addition was added to the insane building to accomidate the male insane of the county. The building could now hold 20 of each sex, which proved to be inadequate according to the 1885 State Report.

The almshouse continued to grow and with the advent of increased State care of the insane and mentally disabled with the increased welfare programs for the poor the farm began to shift towards care for the elderly and infirm. In 1967 the farming operations were discontinued, marking its true transition from a partially residential facility to a long term care facility for the counties elderly. In 1978 "Farm" was dropped from the name and it became the Fair Acres Geriatric Center.

Modern Day[edit]

Today the facility sits on 210 acres and comprised 18 buildings including a large 13 story tower. Five of these buildings are for residents and can accommodate up to 900 people. The original buildings on this site were demolished sometime after 1951, it is unclear when this took place. The original farmhouse on the property, the Odgen-Pennell House, however, dating back to the early 1700s remains.

Fair Acres Geriatric Center is located in Lima, Pennsylvania on Pa. Route 352, one mile north of U.S. Route 1 and Granite Run Mall.


It is uncertain if the second site contains a potters field for the counties indigent and those who passed at the County Home. The county did do burials of poor deceased at public expense at a couple of cemeteries in the county, but it is likely the county did maintain a Potters Field at Fair Acres.

Per the Delaware County Medical Examiners office, there is a Potters Field at the Fair Acres location, and was still being used up to the 1980's.

Images of the Delaware County Almshouse[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Delaware County Almshouse

Additional Information[edit]

History of Delaware County Pennylvania 1862

Report of the Committee on Lunacy of Board of Public Charities of the State of Pennsylvania (1885)

Images of America: Middletown Township

Fairacres website