Lancaster County Almshouse and Asylum

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Lancaster County Almshouse and Asylum
Opened 1800
Closed 1969
Current Status Closed
Building Style Single Building
Location Lancaster, PA
Alternate Names
  • The Lancaster County Poor and House of Employment
  • Lancaster County Almshouse and Hospital


Construction of the Lancaster County almshouse began in 1799. The exact date the almshouse opened for operation is unknown. This institution at its inception was expected to serve a multitude of functions in the community, but was primarily intended for the social control of the poor. In the eighteenth century, poverty and urban life were viewed as the primary causes of such social ills as crime, homelessness, immorality, and even mental illness. In discussing the almshouse movement in the Mid-Atlantic region Bourque states, communities constructed almshouses as part of a complex response to social problems, and almshouses were part of a wide spectrum of efforts to manage the poor.

Delinquent and dependent children, at least initially were housed in the Lancaster County almshouse. It appears unclear as to whether these children were admitted to the almshouse with their families because of poverty, or as individuals because of dependency or delinquency I and what role the Courts had, if any, in the admission process. County taxes provided the primary source of funding for the almshouse. The Lancaster County almshouse included a working farm and stone quarry, and the manufacture of household goods with the residents of the institution employed in these operations. These operations were intended to reduce institutional dependence on county taxes by providing a source of revenue through the sale of excess produce and commodities.

Overall, administration of the almshouse was entrusted to a steward/superintendent, with his wife serving as matron of the hospital. It was typical for husband and wife to have these two positions, as it was required that the steward and his family live at the almshouse. Other staff positions are not as clearly documented, but seem to have included attendants, nurses, and a storekeeper.[1]

Lancaster County Almshouse and Asylum[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Lancaster County Almshouse and Asylum