Tompkins County Poor House

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Tompkins County Poor House
Opened 1829/1892
Closed 1987
Current Status Closed
Building Style Single Building
Location Jacksonville, NY
Alternate Names


Tompkins county voted in favor of building a poorhouse on November 22, 1827. The county clerk allocated $4,000 for the facility, with $1,500 to be raised in the present year, $1,250 in 1828, and $1,250 in 1829. A wooden structure was erected with room for 75 individuals on farmland located in the township of Ulysses circa 1829. The building was altered and repaired circa 1876.

On November 20, 1891, a committee was appointed to study whether the existing county home could be renovated further or whether a new complex was required. The existing building was in poor condition and required major repairs. In February 1892, it was decided to authorize a new building and in June, $20,000 was appropriated by the county for that purpose. The new building was built of brick and completed later in the year. By 1976, the county home was one of the last in the state to have a fully integrated farm operation. 3 Many of the 58 residents participate in everyday clean-up activities, dusting rooms, making beds, sweeping floors and washing dishes. Many of the men work on the farm, earning up to $20 per week. Their wages were limited, as earning more than that would affect their Social Security income.

The County Commissioner of Social Services recommended in November 1980 to close the farm at the county home. 5 The commissioner noted the farm lost $20,000 per year for the past five years. Rising labour costs and government regulations made the farm unprofitable and a liability. The county legislature voted to end farming operations at the county home in 1981. In December 1986, the county voted to close the county home by December 31, 1987, because of declining enrollment, deteriorating buildings and new state regulations. On February 25, 1987, the last two of the 24 county home residents moved out. Eleven employees remained until October to winterise the buildings.