Charlestown Poorhouse, Massachusetts, USA
The first almshouse or poorhouse in Charlestown, Massachusetts, was opened in 1728. In the early 19th Century, the establishment was located near to Winthrop Street on what is now Wallace Court. Following a fire in 1824, the almshouse moved to Elm Street, perhaps influenced by the site's proximity to the Bunker Hill Burial Ground, which was then a burial place for the poor of Charlestown.
In 1849, a new building was erected on Alford Street, at the north side of the Mystic River, close to where a larg wind turbine now stands. It was constructed of brick, 100 feet long, two storeys high, and with two wings, one for men and one for women. A large sun room was subsequently added at each end. Each wing contained two or three dormitories of up to 30 beds, plus some smaller rooms of betwen one and five beds. There were separate male and female dining rooms, although husbands could eat with their wives in the women's dining room. The kitchens and laundry served both sides. There was an infirmary, but no hospital for more serious conditions, which were removed to the hospital at Long Island.
In 1873, the establishment became an annexe of Boston's Long Island almshouse, mainly accommodating pauper couples.
Physically fit inmates were required to work. For the men, a workshop was provided, while women assisted with domestic tasks.
The Charlestown almshouse closed in 1911 and its then 105 inmates were transferred to the Long Island almshouse, where additional dormitories were erected. The old building was demolished to make way for a new track for the Boston Elevated Railway Company, though the land was actually used as a scrapyard for old streetcars.
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Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston StreetBoston, MA 02215.
- Charlestown Overseers of the Poor (1847-73) records include meeting minutes, contemporary copy of by-laws, lists of members, financial accounts, records of aid recipients and applications to the almshouse. Also, a volume containing narrative histories of aid recipients, 1864-66, including widows, orphans, and Civil War veterans.
- Boston Overseers of the Poor records (1733-1925) include Almshouse records (1735-1911), consisting of admission and discharge registers, lists of inmates, deaths, indentures, accounts, and memoranda.
- Meltsner, Heli The Poorhouses of Massachusetts: A Cultural and Architectural History (2014, McFarland).
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