the Poorhouse Story

Caption: Philadelphia -- Blockley Almshouse


NOTE: Over time, there were several poorhouses in this county. The reader is cautioned to
take care not to confuse them. (Since I don't live in the area, it is impossible for me to determine which were where and when! ) PHL

         Vol. I Written 1830 - 1850
as found on-line in the USGENWEB archives 
Chapter 76. POOR - HOUSES 
"The original Poor-house for the city was located down town, on a green meadow, extending from Spruce to Pine streets, and from Third to Fourth streets. Its front was to the east, and nearest to Third street. Its great gate was on Spruce street, and its entrance by Third street was by a stile ! The house was such a structure as to height and general appearance as that of the Friends' Almshouse in Walnut street; it had a piazza all round. It contained the sick and insane as well as the poor. There were also some parts of the necessary buildings formed near the corner of Union and Fourth streets, on the site now occupied as the premises of Doctor Physick, from which cause, I find, in 1758 it was called "the Alms-house down Fourth street", and "the Alms-house square", &c. The present Alms-house out Spruce street, begun in 1760, was first occupied in the year 1767. The square of nearly four hundred feet square, on which the buildings stand, cost then but 800 Pounds. Who can tell its rise of value since ! It was then, however, quite a place in the country, and near the woods, and having a fine orchard on the square on its northern front."

PHILADELPHIA NEWSPAPER (Jan 11, 1882) report of Investigation Into Corruption at Poorhouse  --- a scan which takes time to load.


Published on March 21, 2001, Philadelphia Daily News (PA)

"When a construction crew struck human bones on a parking garage site at the University of Pennsylvania, they immediately shut down the backhoe and sent for campus police.

But what they found wasn't the grisly aftermath of some modern murder. They had dug into a 19th-century burial ground that may give archaeologists clues about the humble people of that day.

Whoever they were, these people were decently - but perhaps anonymously - buried."

NOTE: The rest of this on-line article is available only for a fee on their archives.   PHL

the Poorhouse Story

"Gopsill's Philadelphia, PA General & Business Directory for 1885. Philadelphia: James Gopsill's Sons, 1885. 2057 page(s). page 1176: McSorley, ... Catharine housekeeper h Blockley Almshouse"
   found on-line at  


the Poorhouse Story


Almshouse/Philadelphia General Hospital
Minutes of the Guardians of the Poor, Alms House Managers, and committees of each; admission, discharge, census, and housekeeping records of the Blockley Almshouse, later reconstituted as the Philadelphia General Hospital

NOTE: This will provide access to a very extensive collection of records throughout the history of the poorhouse (and later hospital). The records are very well described in the finding aid on this website.  PHL

The listing of the staff and all the inmates of the 
Philadelphia Almshouse in Blockley Township
for the 1850 Census 
can be found in's   "Images Online" -- We cannot provide a link because this is a subscription service.  However we can describe where to find the listing.  Many public libraries subscribe to the service.  So, even if you cannot afford to subscribe at home, you may be able to access this data in your local community.

There are apparently 142 images in this section.  The Almshouse starts with image 94 which contains the first part of the staff list.  That staff list continues on image 95 where the list of inmates begins.  Those pages with the rest of the inmates continue through image 141.  (By the way, the listing for the Almshouse is immediately preceded by "The Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insain [sic]" which ends with image 93.

the Poorhouse Story

"In March ... workers building a parking garage for Children's Hospital of Philadelphia came upon about a dozen 19th-century graves, thought to be the remains of indigents who lived in the Blockley Almshouse, a poorhouse that operated from 1834 to 1895. The University of Pennsylvania hired Crist to excavate the graves, and the university and the hospital are splitting the costs of reburial, a Penn spokeswoman said."
    from an article entitled "What to do about the historic remains that lie beneath?"
    on the on-line edition of The Philadelphia Enquirer  2/24/2002 

NOTE: A careful search of the records mentioned above should be helpful in reconstructing a list of those buried at the almshouse/hospital.  PHL

the Poorhouse Story

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

HOME             Back to find Other PENNSYLVANIA COUNTIES                OTHER STATES