McHenry County Almshouse

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McHenry County Almshouse
Opened 1884/1959
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Single Building
Location Woodstock, IL
Alternate Names
  • McHenry County Farm Home & Hospital
  • Valley-Hi Nursing Home


In 1853, Illinois passed a law making each township responsible for its own poor. By 1859, the question of whether to build a county supported poorhouse in McHenry County was rejected by voters, but it wasn’t long before the issue returned. By fall 1883, McHenry County took its first steps toward establishing a county almshouse and insane asylum. Almshouse sponsors protested against the inhumanity of practices that lumped the poor and mentally ill together. Since men, women and children shared the same space, it was difficult to keep order. Little wonder there were a number of illegitimate births. McHenry County’s board of county supervisors agreed in 1884 to spend $25,000 to buy land and erect buildings for a “poor farm.” It bought 113 acres from J. C. Allen for $6,000. An addition, exclusively for the mentally ill, was added in 1900 at a cost of $12,366.

The McHenry County Farm Home & Hospital (the name was changed to Valley-Hi Nursing Home in 1959) featured offices, men’s and women’s dormitories and separate dining rooms, a hospital, laundry room, sunroom, library and a myriad of farm-related structures including hog and dairy barns, smokehouse, a chicken house, machinery shed and orchard. In 1915, it cost the county $2.51 a person a week to care for the 64 “inmates” living at the McHenry County poor farm. Records indicate costs reached $19,153 a year for 48 inmates by 1921. But less supplies on hand and farm products sold, the cost for a single year was $11,284.

McHenry County used the 1884 buildings until 1959, when voters approved construction of a $285,000 bond issue to construct a new building and renovate an old one into an employee dormitory. One of the original buildings was razed in 1960, when farm operations ceased. The other was leveled eight years later.