Few today know that poorhouses were one time a staple in many New York communities. At once the embodiment of society's benevolence toward the less fortunate and the place where man's darker side sometimes flourished, poorhouses and the poorhouse movement have much to teach us. Beginning with the European almshouse, this presentation explores what poorhouses were, how they developed, who they were meant to serve, who they really benefitted and what social forces led to their creation and their changing over time. Issues such as changing views about poverty, mental illness and children are explored. Also, as this presentation focuses primarily on poorhouses in New York, the end of slavery in 1827 and its impact on the poorhouse movement is incorporated into the presentation.
Funded project of the New York Council for the Humanities. The New York Council for the Humanities is a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.