Kings-Brooklyn County Poorhouse
the Poorhouse Story

The notes below have been abstracted from the following reports.
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YATES REPORT (1824)      1824 LAW      1857 REPORT EXPLANATION
the Poorhouse Story

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the portion of this 1824 report that dealt with the poorhouse and poor relief in Kings County.
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1824 LAW (required establishment of poorhouse vs. exempted):  exempted
the Poorhouse Story


The several buildings embraced in the alms house establishment in this county are located just outside the limits of the city of Brooklyn, some three or four miles from East River.

Among the more important buildings may be mentioned:

1st. The alms house proper, built of brick, 50x250 feet, three stories high above the basement.
2nd. A hospital building, 48x254 feet, four stories.
3rd. A nursery, 50x200 feet, three stories.
4th. A lunatic asylum, 260 feet long, wings 45 feet, and the centre 80 feet wide, four stories high.

Connected with the alms house is a farm of seventy acres, owned by the county; also forty acres held by lease. This land is worked mainly by pauper labor, and yields an annual revenue of $3,515.

The basements of these several buildings are used for domestic purposes. Furnaces and stoves are employed for heating the apartments. The importance of ventilation is acknowledged by an abortive attempt to secure it. The lunatic asylum is the only building essentially benefitted, and even there it is by no means what the necessities of the case require. 1,365 inmates were found in the establishment as follows:
Alms house proper...............................................380
Lunatic asylum..................................................205

Of these 674 are males and 691 females; 870 are foreign and 495 native born, including 424 children under sixteen years of age.

The supervision and management of the alms house is under the care of one keeper, aided by three male and four female assistants. A complete separation of the sexes is preserved at all times.

The food furnished appeared to be of good quality and in sufficient variety and quantity, consisting of meats, fish, milk, and the various vegetable products of the farm. The average number of inmates during the year is 1,800. The number being much the largest during the cold season. All who are able are required to labor about the house or on the farm. Children upon reaching twelve years of age are bound out by the superintendant.

The establishment has been visited once during the year by the board of supervisors. By the kindness and efforts of benevolent individuals, preaching is enjoyed every Sabbath, both in the alms house and in the lunatic asylum, also a Sabbath school is maintained. The house is supplied with Bibles. A few cases of yellow fever, small pox and scarlatina have been received and placed securely in the pest house during the year; but these diseases have in no case extended to the resident inmates.

The number of deaths during the year is 342. The number of births 142.

A physician is employed at a salary of $200 to prescribe for and treat those in the alms house building. The hospital is in (the) charge of a resident physician, aided by four assistants.

There is also a resident physician in the lunatic asylum.

Of the inmates, five aged ones are blind.

The only form of punishment practiced is solitary confinement. It is estimated that two-thirds of all the inmates are reduced to the necessity of receiving public charity consequent upon habits of inebriation. A school is maintained in the nursery department through the year, with an average attendance of two hundred scholars, all under the care and instruction of a single teacher, who of course, can do little more than exercise a supervisory control.

There are a number of other wards in the same building in which the smaller children are gathered and classified according to their respective ages, and in (the) charge of attendants whose mission it is to minister to the constant and varied wants of these little ones, and it was gratifying to your committee to observe the care and interest that were in various ways manifested in their behalf. In the nursery hospital there were twenty-five cases, mostly opthalmia, under the care of the hospital physician.

The hospital building possesses ample accommodations, judiciously arranged to meet the wants of the inmates of such an establishment. Though sadly deficient in ventilation, this defect is partially atoned for by spacious corridors that surround the building, at each story, arranged so as to be closed or opened according to circumstances.

The lunatic asylum is a fine edifice, very conveniently arranged in its construction, and better ventilated than either of the other buildings, and is capable of properly accommodating 150 patients, but containing 205 at the time of the committee's visit. During the year, 145 new cases have been admitted (one eight and one four years of age). Ninety-three patients have been cured and discharged, and sixteen more have been materially improved, which result is the best eulogium that the physician and managers can receive, county asylum though it be.

The building contains ten halls, five appropriated to the use of the males and five for the females. The patients are classified according to the nature and stage of their respective maladies, and are constantly under the watchful eye of attendants of whom there are twenty--ten males and ten females. Of the lunatics, seventy-nine are males and 126 females.

No mechanical restraints have been imposed upon any of the patients for the last year, during which time it has been under the control of the present physician, and only one is confined in his room. The lunatics freely mingle together in the halls or in the yards provided for them, in which to take air and exercise. The committee were informed that one year previous, under a different administration, from forty to fifty of the inmates were constantly confined to their rooms, and twenty more subjected to mechanical restraints of different kinds, of which number five were made cripples, and three of them permanently so for life from that cause in the old asylum, and that quite a number exhibited upon their person, marks of violence received after their admission into the asylum. A different policy now prevails. The resident physician observed that he considers "kindness" more potent than chains.

Since the above was in type, a letter has been received from the resident physician of Kings County lunatic asylum stating the "corporeal punishment", above alluded to, "was inflicted by the attendants, as I have been informed, unknown to the superintendant."

Transcribed by PHS-Volunteer, Cheramie Breaux in Louisiana
the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story

Click here to see photo of a ceramic platter showing the Brooklyn Alms House.  

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Microfilm Series A1978  Roll Number(s) 42-71 (KINGS)  more information
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the Poorhouse Story

We are hoping to build this base of information about the poorhouse in KINGS-BROOKLYN county through the helpful participation of readers. All are requested to submit items of interest by sending  e-mail  to The Poorhouse Lady.

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