The Workhouse and County Buildings, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
The Allegheny Workhouse and County Buildings were established in 1869 at what was then known as Claremont, now Blawnox, at Alpha Drive and Freeport Road. The facilities also included an Inebriate Asylum. The workhouse housed inmates convicted of minor offences. Many of them were employed in maintaining an apple orchard and a nearby 1,100-acre farm, whose produce helped feed the military. Inmates also manufactured brushes, brooms, carpets and chairs, and provided laundry services.
In 1924, the average daily population was 955, with a total of 4,457 new prisoners received during the year — approximately fifteen per day. Their sentences raged from ten days to ten years, with most being for thirty days, while 471 were for a year or more. The most frequent offences were Suspicion (1,283), Disorderly conduct (649), Vagrancy (593), Boot-legging (477), and Drunkenness (344). In that years, the income from the sale of brooms, carpets, chairs, farm produce and laundry services etc. was around $200,000.
The establishment had its own orchestra. One thousand new books were added to the library during the year. Every two weeks during the winter, the inmates were provided with a moving picture, or a musical or literary programme.
The workhouse finally closed in 1971. In 2018, plans were announced to erect a retail plaza on the site.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.
- Pennsylvania State Archives,State Museum Building, 300 North Street, Harrisburg, PA 17120. Holdings: Annual Reports (1873, 1879-99, 1924); Discharge Descriptive Dockets (1873-1971); Escaped Prisoners Books (1882-1971); Register of Prisoners Sentenced to Hard Labor (1869-1971).
- The Allegheny County Workhouse (in The Prison Journal, April 1925, pp. 18-19).
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