Onondaga County Poorhouse
the Poorhouse Story

The notes below have been abstracted from the following reports.
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the Poorhouse Story

Click here to see the exact text of the section dealing with Onondaga County from this 1823 survey of the conditions and methods of poor relief throughout the state which resulted in the passage of the law in 1824 which established a system of county poorhouses in New York.

the Poorhouse Story
1824 LAW (required establishment of poorhouse vs. exempted): exempted
the Poorhouse Story

"It is located on Pompey Hill, some four miles from Syracuse. It is an establishment quite extensive, being made up of additions from time to time as the exigencies of the case have demanded. The main building is constructed of stone, three stories high. Connected with the house is a farm of thirty-four acres, the revenues of which was not ascertained, the keeper being absent from home. The house is warmed by furnaces and stoves. The rooms are not ventilated and some of them poorly lighted, nor was there any provision for bathing. The air in many of the apartments was oppressive, imparting that peculiar odor, that is experienced in a close, vitiated atmosphere not peculiar perhaps to poor houses, but not unfrequently found there, nor could it be specially commended for its cleanliness.

The number of inmates was one hundred and fifty, seventy-five males and seventy-five females, one hundred and fifteen of whom were foreign and thirty-five native born, including sixty children. The sexes are kept separate, in small rooms two persons are placed, in larger ones four, six, twelve and even twenty. The house is in (the) charge of two keepers, both males, who are assisted by the paupers both in the house and upon the farm.

The superintendent of the poor purchases supplies for the house, prescribes rules regulating the diet and government of the paupers, binds out the children and dismisses lunatics when discharged. The average number of inmates is two hundred, the weekly cost of their support was not obtained on account of the absence of the keeper. A school is kept for instructing the children. The house is supplied with Bibles and religious services are held once in two weeks.

This house is visited once annually by the supervisors and by the superintendent of the poor every week. The food furnished was plain but appeared wholesome and good.

A physician is employed by the year, who visits the house every day. During the year there had been four births and eight deaths, from January to June. The number of lunatics was sixteen, eight males and eight females and all paupers.

The insane receive no special medical attention, and none have been cured. Two are thought to be improved, four are constantly confined in cells, three males and one female. A male and female pauper are assigned by the keeper to wait upon the insane. One lunatic was in irons, the straight jacket is sometimes used.

The house admits of the classification of the insane. One of the paupers is an idiot, a male, one deaf and dumb, five blind, all aged. Corporeal punishment is inflicted only upon children.

Two-thirds of the inmates rendered paupers consequent upon the use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage."
Transcribed by PHS-Volunteer, Cheramie Breaux in Louisiana
the Poorhouse Story

(None received yet.)
the Poorhouse Story


Location Correction

"I don't know where you got the information that the Poorhouse was on Pompey Hill, it never was. It was built in 1826 on Onondaga Hill and that's where it always was."
     Jane Tracy [ljtquilt@wtvhmail.com] Town Historian
That is a direct quotation from the official 1857 state government report.
But I guess that wouldn't be the first time the government got something wrong! <grin>  My bet is on your information being more correct.  PHL


the Poorhouse Story


Note:  The links below are wonderful! The Photo Tour is EXCELLENT -- Don't miss it!   PHL

Town and County of Onondaga, New York

From Onondaga's Centennial, Gleanings of a Century, edited by Dwight H. Bruce, Vol. I, The Boston History Company, 1896, pp. 311-315


Onondaga County Poorhouse! 

NOTE: The web pages linked here require that you have Vector Graphic Rendering (VML) on your computer. If you open the pages and get that notice (or cannot see the photographs) you may have to upgrade to the latest version of your web browser (i.e. Internet Explorer) which takes quite a while but is well worth being able to view the graphics which so many are now using on their websites.  PHL

Take a photo tour of the Poorhouse campus (1827-Present)- and also find inmate information! 

Town of Onondaga Historical Society
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The Onondaga County Poorhouse records are in the keeping of the Town Historian of the Town of Onondaga. That wonderful website was just updated with links to much new material (including inmate information) after we visited them in November 2001.
Click here to see a report on that visit (with photos!) and the link to their website.   PHL

"The Onondaga County NY Poorhouse limestone building was recently demolished and the records are now in the possession of the Town of Onondaga Historical Society. The address is 4876 Onondaga Road, Syracuse, New York 13215 and the town historian is Jane Tracy. This information is being copied from the original books to computer but I don't know what the plans are for future use of the information."
     Johanna Clift   johdona@hotmail.com  

Microfilm Series A1978  Roll Number(s) 152-158  more information
the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story

We are hoping to build this base of information about the poorhouse in ONONDAGA 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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