Montgomery County Almshouse
|Montgomery County Almshouse|
|Established||March 10th, 1806|
|Construction Began||1807, 1871 (current building)|
|Construction Ended||Fall 1807, 1872 (current building)|
|Architect(s)||Henry Sims (1870 almshouse)|
|Location||1600 Block RockRoad Upper Providence, PA|
|Alternate Names||*Montgomery County Poorfarm
The question of establishing a county poor farm in Montgomery County was first considered at a public meeting, held at the residence of John Davis in Norristown on January 23, 1801. Despite this it was not until March 10th 1806 that the county first passed an act establishing the county poor farm and authorizing its construction. By the fall of 1807 the construction was completed and the farm was in operation. It was located in Upper Providence Township, two miles from Phoenixville. By 1885 the alsmhouse property extended 298 acres, of which 245 were under cultivation and four more under garden husbandry. In 1821 the originals almshouse building caught fire and burned down, but was rebuilt that same year. In 1867 a fire consumed many of the hospital's outbuildings, causing them to be rebuilt that summer. These buildings included the wagon-house, slaughter-house, sheep-stable, barn-yard wall, corn-crib and chicken-house.
In 1870 it was deemed the 1821 almshouse was not suitable for its purpose and construction of a few almshouse was begun. The new almshouse building was constructed between 1871-1872 and designed by architect Henry Sims on the plan popular with Pennsylvania almshouses at the time. It was two hundred and forty-four feet long, from seventy-five to fifty feet wide, and three stories high, surmounted by a stone belfry. A two story central wing extends to the buildings rear and likely housed the institutions kitchen and cafeteria on the first floor and chapel on the second. The building was constructed entirely of locally quarried red sandstone and continues to stand to this day. The building was heated by steam, which was provided for by three large boilers installed in an adjacent building in 1874.
On March 21, 1872 a fire consumed the 1821 stone almshouse and took the lives of 6 male patients. Fortunately though, the new building was near completion and the remaining paupers were not left homeless by this tragedy.
On the property were two other buildings used to housed the counties indigent. One, a three story stone building constructed in 1838 was used at the hospital. In the basement of this building was also the accommodation for the institutions male insane patients. The male insane floor contained 11 rooms or "cells" measuring roughly 7 foot square in their dimensions. The second stone building was also three stories tall including the basement and constructed of stone. On the second and third floor were the female insane patients. The basement story of this building was occupied by the colored paupers of the institution.
In 1900 and addition to the 1871 was constructed of the same stone and joined to the building via a corridor running off of the eastern wing. These buildings were remodeled in 1940 and the original gabled roof and belfry were removed from the 1871 building. In the later 1960s the eight story "North Building" was constructed. Like many county almshouse the focus of the institution is now on geriatric services, and it continues to serve as the county nursing home. It provides 650 full time jobs and provides a full range of physician and nursing services, clinics and X-ray, physical, occupational and speech therapies, recreation and activities.
A potters field cemetery was on the almshouse premises. In 1885 it took up one acre of enclosed ground.
Images of the Montgomery County Almshouse
Main Image Gallery: Montgomery County Almshouse