Adams County Almshouse

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Adams County Almshouse
Construction Began 1820
Closed 1964
Demolished 1974
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Pre-1854 Plans
Location Gettysburg, PA
Alternate Names
  • Adams County Home
  • Adams County Hospital for the Insane


The Adams County Almshouse was built in 1820 to care for the poor of Adams County one mile from Gettysburg on the Harrisburg Turnpike. The almshouse property included 270 aces of land which was worked for the institutions benefit. The original almshouse complex consisted of three buildings, the almshouse proper, the infirmary, and the old insane hospital. The main building was a two story brick structure with a basement, measuring 70 by 40 ft. The old insane building was also was a two story brick structure with basement, measuring 95 by 20 ft. The infirmary, which housed the counties sick measured 60 by 32 feet and was also a two story structure of brick. The capacity of these structures was 125 people.

During the Battle of Gettysburg the Almshouse property was located in close proximity to the battle, its location being just northeast of Gettysburg and along the initial Union Line on the first day of fighting. Just north of the Almshouse was a knoll, which the Almshouse's cemetery was located on. General Barlow's division, part of the Union XI Corps took position on the Knoll. However their location on the edge of the Union line and the knoll's position further forward of supporting divisions created a salient. Barlow's position was hit from both flanks and overrun, leading to the collapse of the Union right flank and the confederate lines moving past the Almshouse by the end of the first day. This area is know called Barlow's Knoll. From the beginning the Almshouse was utilized by both armies as a field hospital to care for the wounded.

After the Civil War an 1886 report was made on the hospital. According to the report the three buildings were found to be in poor repair and all described as unsuitable for use as either an almshouse or a hospital. The provisions for separating the sexes was found to be inadequate and management of the almshouse poor as a whole. The 20 insane and imbecile residents were found to be living in poor conditions in a cellar and often were kept in chains. Female insane and imbeciles were said to have engaged in sexual activities with "men from the road". Unfortunately accounts of such things is very common for rural county almshouses at the time.

In 1881, thanks to the efforts of Dr O'Neil, the chief physician, a separate building for the care of the insane was erected. The building was of bricke and two stories tall with a basement and attic, measuring 30 by 60 feet. This building could accommodate 12 patients of each sex. An 1885 report remarked that for whatever reason the county did not sent its recent cases of insanity to the state hospital for treatment.

By 1885 the almshouse property consisted of 240 acres, 190 of which were cultivated and 2 were under garden husbandry. The crops raised were wheat, corn, rye, and various vegetable, which were used for the almshouse.

This Almshouse complex was shut down in 1964 and many of the buildings demolished over time. In 1974 the last building, the 1881 building for the insane, was demolished.


The Almshouse cemetery remains in its original location on Barlow's Knoll. It contains the graves of the dead from the county complex and the poor and unidentified departed of Adams County. Located at N 39° 50.688 W 077° 13.638

Images of the Adams County Almshouse[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Adams County Almshouse

Additional Information[edit],1132586