Houghton County Poor House
|Houghton County Poor House|
|Building Style||Single Building|
Since the 1870s, the county funded a poor house and a 100-acre farm to provide for the basic needs of its people when they had nowhere else to go. It was meant to be as self sufficient as possible, and indeed the poor house and its farm was a model institution in its early years. Those who could work did, and those who could not enjoyed the view of Portage Lake. Men and women had separate quarters and had roles at the poor house in accordance with their gender and the times: men would work in the fields, or find a place in the blacksmith shop, machine shop, or stables, while women had sewing rooms and would prepare food.
The farm, as of 1910, supported 43 hogs, about 50 cows, and 200 chickens. It was more than adequate to feed the ‘inmates’, as they were called, whose population ranged from about 25 to 150 in normal years. Most of the elderly residents of the poor farm were able to leave following Michigan’s Public Act 280 of 1939, which directed counties to care for the aging regardless of cost. These state funds helped many of the former residents find better housing; those who wanted to move into other facilities usually could. Still, some had come to think of the old farm as their home. After a visit from a food inspector in 1953, the farm was shut down—the following year saw all the farm buildings torn down. By the time the poor farm was shut down in 1968, it was home to a handful of patients with chronic illnesses and better known as an infirmary than a refuge.