Albany County Poorhouse
the Poorhouse Story

The notes below have been abstracted from the following reports.
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the Poorhouse Story
YATES REPORT (1823-1824):  The portion of this report which was from Albany County includes an excellent and passionate condemnation of the way paupers were treaded in New York before the county poorhouse system was established. (Click on the link above to read it in its unedited entirety.) 
the Poorhouse Story
1824 LAW (required establishment of poorhouse vs. exempted): Exempted
the Poorhouse Story
1857 INVESTIGATION: Albany City and County Poor House

   This establishment located at the city of Albany, embraces four buildings constructed of brick, two stories in height above the basements, one in size 40 x 70 feet and two others 32 x 90 feet, connected with a farm of 216 acres, yielding an annual revenue estimated at $6,000.00. The basements of one building are used for domestic purposes, the others are unoccupied.  In the poor house proper are 10 rooms, warmed by furnaces and stoves, but with very little ventilation. This building was erected 34 years ago. From six to forty paupers are placed in a single room.

   The number of inmates was 319, 120 males and 299 females. [Note: while these numbers do not add up correctly, they are exactly as originally published. Probably the total was meant to be 419. PHL ]. Of these three-fourths are foreign born, and eighty are under six years of age. The sexes are kept separate, only meeting at their meals, which are eaten in the same mess-room.

   The average number of inmates is 350, and the keeper reports that the number is declining, and states as causes of such decline, a reduction in the amount of emigration, and the improved system adopted by the Commissioners of Emigration in forwarding emigrants to their destinations.  They are supported at an average monthly cost of ninety cents, exclusive of the products of the farm.  As is common, the paupers who are able are employed on the farm and about the house.  Once during the past year the supervisors have visited and inspected the house, in a body.  It is supplied with bibles, and the city missionary preaches once or twice each Sabbath.  A teacher is employed in the house during the whole year, who teaches the common English branches to an average number of about fifty children. On arriving at proper age they are bound out to various trades and employments, by the overseer of poor of the city.  The common council of Albany, impose rules and regulations for the government of the house, and under their direction supplies are furnished.  The fare of the paupers is plain and wholesome.  To attend the paupers, a physician is employed at an annual salary of $800. He is assisted by two resident medical students, who are boarded for their services.  The physician visits once each day and the students twice.  For bathing, two bath-rooms are furnished in the insane asylum and two in the fever hospital.  During the past year, have occurred in the house thirty-two births and seventy-one deaths.  The keeper thinks twenty-five of these births were illegitimate offspring.  During the same time the inmates have suffered from small pox, typhoid fever and dysentery.  They have a good pest or fever house, constructed of brick twenty-four by one hundred feet and two stories high above the basement.  It is heated by furnaces, and is quite well ventilated by numerous openings into a hollow wall.  It embraces four wards, with capacity for one hundred beds.  There are now in hospital thirty-two sick; only two cases of fever, the residue chronic cases.

   Of the inmates seventy-three are lunatics, thirty-two males and forty-one females, seventy are paupers, the remaining, three cases pay from $3.00 to $4.50 per week.  There is provided an insane asylum in connection with the alms house, built of brick, forty by ninety feet, two stories in height, containing thirty-eight rooms above and eight in the basement, with convenient halls and yards.  Thirty-nine lunatics have been admitted during the past year.  They are under the care of the house physician, who is required to devote to them particular attention, and four attendants, two male and two female.  Two are confined in cells or small rooms, which is the only kind of restraint used.  When out of the building they are confined in commodious yards.  Seven during the year have been dismissed as cured, and two improved.  It is judged that two thirds of the whole number of insane may be safely pronounced improved.  One lunatic escaped on the 5th of January last and froze to death.  Frequent application has been made for admission to the State institution, and refused.

   Four of the paupers are idiots, three males and one female, two are under sixteen years of age.  There is one deaf and dumb, fourteen years old, and three blind.

   No corporal punishment is administered in the house.

   One half, at least, of the paupers are reduced to their present position by reason of intemperate habits. 

Transcribed by PHS-Volunteer, Cheramie Breaux in Louisiana
the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story



There is a roll of microfilm (# 9102800) at the Albany County Hall of Records
which contains the following two books:  
     "Albany Almshouse Record of Deaths: 1896-1947"
     "Albany Almshouse Interments: 1880-1930"

The microfilm is available for viewing at the Albany County Hall of Records 
and copying may be done on a per page fee basis on premises.  The film is not 
available through Inter-Library Loan. Copies of the microfilm roll may be 
purchased for $20.00

The original ledger book of  records of deaths may also be viewed; and the call number
for that book is # 83-01066.  [The book of records of interments could not be located
at the Hall of Records by the County Archivist on 3/22/2002 when we talked with him.]


Personnel of The Albany County Hall of Records/Albany County Clerk offer a great teacher's kit 
(which includes wonderful county poorhouse material)--
THE OTHER SOCIETY THEN AND NOW: The Records of Social Welfare in Albany County
(A Teacher's Guide With Facsimile Documents and Photographs) by Joan S. Gross
funded by The Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund 
through the Albany County Hall of Records
    for information contact Craig Carlson at 

Note: If you are looking for information about children, you may want to also 
check out the FairView Home For Friendless Children Of Watervliet

Microfilm Series A1978  Roll Number(s)
 1-6  more information
the Poorhouse Story

An article in the Times-Union newspaper, by Elizabeth Benjamin Staff writer,  published: Wednesday, April 19, 2000, titled " Forgotten in life, interrupted in death" told of the following. Construction workers discovered several dozen graves near the armory behind what is now the David Axelrod Institute of Public Health in 1989. "County records show the site was used as a cemetery for the Albany County Almshouse from as early as 1880 until it moved to Colonie in the 1920s, but historians to date have been unsure of the exact boundaries of the area in which bodies were buried." 

Then during Spring of 2000 more bodies were discovered during the site work for the University Heights project -- a campus complex for a group of local colleges which was expected to  include a bookstore and food court in the old armory as well as a hotel and conference center.

Some of the graves were located beneath the foundation of buildings once used by the Air National Guard which had been recently demolished. Others were said to lie beneath the parking lot of the state-owned Axelrod Institute. 

Carol Raemsch, a bioarchaeologist with Hartgen Associates was quoted as saying,  "These were poor people who didn't matter much back when there weren't a lot of rules about building. Construction was done right on top of them.''

It was also reported that the poorhouse deaths were allotted one line apiece in a ledger kept at the Albany County Hall of Records. Apparently there are plans to exhume and relocate those remains.    PHL

People Buried at Albany Almshouse -- 1880-1930

Complete List    
Updated July 2002 (1800+ entries -- alphabetical) 

Latest Appeal for Help Protesting the Treatment of this Cemetery 

August 14, 2002

A threatened site in the City of Albany needs your help! A private developer is currently impacting a portion of the 19th century Albany County Almshouse cemetery site. The New York Archaeological Council (NYAC) was informed last month that the developer was planning to remove several graves (including those of children) with a backhoe.

The NYAC Board wrote a letter of concern to the Mayor's office and was informed no work would occur on the site until a plan for sensitive treatment of the burials was developed. However, NYAC was informed that backhoes were on site this Monday. The mayor's office was contacted, and NYAC was faxed a copy of a Memorandum of Understanding that still called for excavation by backhoe and by "grave diggers," with no formal archaeological mitigation planned. The MOU is no different than the developer's original plan, and was signed only by the developer and the City Archaeologist.

Several local archaeologists are monitoring the situation and are trying to put a stop to the project until a more adequate MOU is formulated.

The developer and the city are both aware of the significance of this resource as NYAC has written several letters concerning the situation, and the New York State Museum has excavated nearly 800 burials on the property immediately adjacent to this parcel.

Please help by sending a letter of concern to the mayor's office stating that the current work should be stopped immediately and that this segment of the site should not be treated any differently than the adjacent property, and therefore should be subject to a full archaeological mitigation.

Please send your letters to Mayor Gerald Jennings, City Hall, Eagle Street, Albany, New York 12207. If possible, please fax the letter: (518) 434-5013. If you have any questions please e-mail me at: Thanks in advance for any support you can provide.

Carol A. Raemsch, Ph.D.

Chair, NYAC Human Remains Committee



Another newspaper article, 
a letter from the New York Archaeological Council  
to Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, and 
"visions of television cameras focused on backhoes 
tossing the remains of a known cemetery into dump trucks" ...
have again been required to get the city
to do the right thing regarding another portion of the
old almshouse cemetery!

Read the story from the
Albany Times-Union
Sunday July 28, 2002

But read it soon; they only archive the articles on-line 
for one week; after that you will need to pay to read it on-line.

See Notice Above (under RECORDS) 
for information about records of 
deaths and interments.

See previous  NEWS ALERT ! notices  
(for more details about the disposition of this cemetery)

the Poorhouse Story

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