1864 Westchester County Poor House

“To a population of two hundred and twenty-five in the poor-house of Westchester county, twenty-two are lunatics. Seven are males, and fifteen are females. Three-quarters are of foreign birth. Seventeen of these cases are of mild form of insanity. One was admitted in 1829. It is not known that any of the whole number have been ever treated in an asylum. Several have been admitted to the poorhouse for the second or third time. Four males and eight females are capable of labor. Those who do not labor have no amusement or employment. The manner of restraint and coercion is by straight jacket, handcuffs and confinement. The house has a full supply of water and two bathing tubs, in which, however, the insane are washed and bathed at no particular times. The building is of stone, two and a half stories high, with eight feet ceilings, and rooms 8 x 5 feet. The cells are in the centre of the building, with corridors, after the style of a prison and penitentiary, and receive their light only through the doors. They are, of course, dark and ill ventilated, and there is a total and studied absence of all that contributes to cheerfulness or mental elasticity. The building is heated by furnaces, and a comfortable temperature is maintained in winter, but there is no provision for the various grades of the insane. The sexes are separated, the males in one ward and the females in another, with pauper attendants, and one male assistant in the care of the female insane. The general appearance of the rooms is clean and tidy. Provision is made to confine twenty-five insane, but thirty-nine have at times been forced into the space designed for twenty-five. All have shoes, and their under garments are changed weekly. Whenever they are sick, the physician of the alms-house visits them, but they never receive treatment with reference to their convalescence, yet the county does not, in view of such a startling fact, hesitate to receive recent cases for confinement, not for cure.”

SOURCE: Documents of the Assembly Of The State Of New York, Eighty-Eighth Session, 1865, Volume 6, Nos. 199 to 112 Inclusive, Albany: C. Wendell, Legislative Printer, 1865, Pages 222-223.

New York State County Poor Houses.