By a coincidence, Gossips recently came upon the following article, which appeared in the Chatham Courier sixty years ago, in August 1954. While celebrating the then newly established County Home for the Aged, which evolved into what is now Pine Haven, the article recounts the history of institutions and provisions made for the poor and the aged in Columbia County in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Recently there was opened at Philmont the County Home for the Aged which replaced the former County Sanitorium. Here in clean, comfortable quarters the elderly residents of the county who have no means of support may live out the rest of their natural lives in a pleasant, homelike atmosphere. . . .
Turn back the pages of time and see what became of County charges years ago. It was in 1778 when the Legislature provided a bill for the support of the poor, by towns and cities. Prior to the adoption of the "poor-house system" both the poor of the towns and those having no towns were sold to the lowest bidder who would contract for their support. Annual appropriations were made, in those times, by the towns of $50 and up to pay the cost of their support. This selling of the poor, originated from a resolution by the Board of Supervisors adopted on October 14, 1819 which in part reads, "That the poor, permanently chargeable on the county, be sold at Public auction by the several Overseers of the poor of several towns in the county."
It is very doubtful that the deportation of a pauper has ever been practiced anywhere else except in Columbia County. This occurred in 1825, where rather than to support the charge, an unfortunate named Michael Rooney was deported to Ireland.
The first County Alms-House was a stone structure, built in the City of Hudson on State Street. Constructed in 1818 it was used as such until 1830. At this time the building was vacated and used as a private insane asylum. Plans were started in 1828 to purchase a site for a permanent Home, as the sum of $5,000 had been appropriated for the cost of purchasing a land site and the remainder of the money to be used toward the erection of necessary buildings. A year later, February 9, 1829, a Board of Supervisors contracted with John C. Hogeboom, Esq., for a farm consisting of 200 acres at $45 an acre. Mr. Hogeboom was given $1,000 on the contract price of the farm. This farm was located at Ghent.
In 1829 the home was occupied and a County House keeper was employed with a salary not to exceed $400 yearly. The reports, for a year, show the home was carefully and efficiently managed, and the farm proved productive. It was also in this year the Board of Supervisors felt the need to move the old "Mad House" or build a new one at the cost of $150.
In the early years, the poor were constantly increasing and we find in 1850 they had increased to 490 being cared for during the year, with the average being 219.
The Alms House was destroyed by fire on July 8, 1857 and it was resolved, in the same month, to build a new one for $10,000. A contract, for a new building, was made for the sum of $15,493 but when the building was completed in 1858 it had cost $21,215.55. Fire was a menace to the County Home for in 1870 the barns were destroyed and were replaced at the cost of $5,900.
The Home, throughout the years, proved productive and took care of most of the home's food needs. They have been well cared for by experienced help and have been adequately housed until the Home was condemned by the New York State Board of Social Welfare, several years ago. It was then up to the Board of Supervisors to take steps to make adjustments or build a new Home and Infirmary which would cost approximately $1,000,000. It was at this time that the Columbia Sanitorium became purchasable. This institution, after many months of planning, renovating, reconstructing, and redecorating has been made into an attractive County Home and Infirmary.The Columbia Sanitorium was a tuberculosis hospital. A history of the hospital, written by Charles A. Nichols, indicates that the original building was completed in 1920 and a sun porch was added on the south side of the building in 1931.
By the late 1920s, there were so many children suffering from tuberculosis that a children's wing was built to accommodate them. This building, which was located next to the original building, was completed in 1930, and it was this building that became the County Home for the Aged in 1953.
The building may have been abandoned in 1978 when the new facility, known as Pine Haven, was completed or in 1985 when that facility was expanded, but it wasn't until 2011 the Board of Supervisors got around to discussing its demolition.
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