Wabasha County Poor House

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Wabasha County Poor House
Opened 1873
Closed 1952
Current Status Preserved
Building Style Single Building
Location Wabasha, MN
Alternate Names


In 1864 the Minnesota Legislature passed a law requiring each of the state's counties to provide a facility to care for their poor and aged residents. Wabasha County initially established its poor farm in 1867 on 160 acres in Hyde Park Township. However this quickly proved to be too isolated and large to manage efficiently, so the county secured 32 acres on the outskirts of Wabasha in 1873.

The main building on the property at that time was originally a barn that had been converted to a dance hall. Even though the owner had refitted the building at his own expense before selling it to the county for use as a poorhouse, it and the rest of the existing buildings were not adequate for their new use. These were gradually replaced with new, purpose-built structures, namely the hospital in 1879 and the residence hall in 1883. The latter building contained not only the residents' rooms but a kitchen, a dining room, and quarters for the superintendent. Welfare largely remained the responsibility of county governments and social organizations until the Great Depression of the 1930s, when federal Social Security was introduced. Citizens in local government facilities were not fully eligible for the new benefits, however, so many residents moved out of the poorhouse network. Wabasha County responded by privatizing the poorhouse, leasing it out as a for-profit rest home so residents could remain and collect federal benefits.

The facility closed as a rest home in 1952. It stood vacant for four years, but from 1956 into the 1980s the main building housed a restaurant and residence. The property remains one of the few intact examples of the 64 poorhouse facilities established in Minnesota from 1854 to 1926.