Hidden History – Almshouse (Hingham, MA)

Date Of Visit: March 30, 2019

Location: Bare Cove Park, 45 Bare Cove Dr, Hingham, MA

Summary: Bare Cove Park was once home to one of the first charitable groups in the colonies and states.  “Town Farm” at Bare Cove was one of the many almshouses in the states.

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New England has a long history of helping others.  One of the ways the people of New England have reached out to help others is with the creation of Almshouses..  In Christian tradition, alms are money or services donated to support the poor and indigent.

In short, Almshouses were charitable housing units designed to help the indigent, particularly widows, the elderly and those unable to pay their rent.  They were maintained by a community or charitable group.  Originally, they were attached to churches and other religious groups.  They were later adopted by local officials and governing bodies.

Although they have a short history in the colonies and states, they have a much longer history in Europe.  In fact, Almshouses are a tradition that was brought over from England.  The first recorded almshouse is said to have been built in 1132 at the Hospital of Saint Cross in Winchester, England. It is still in existence today.

The almshouse in Hingham, MA, (“Town Farm”) which once stood in the area in the photograph below was built  in 1832 and it lasted just over 100 years. It was the third almshouse in the city.  Although the sign doesn’t say specifically where the almshouse was, it was in this general area.  Trees, a few condos just out of view behind the trees and access roads now stand where the almshouse once stood.  This sign, where the defunct almshouse once stood, is located on Bare Cove Path at Bare Cove Park.

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Almshouses in the colonies and states were not just a product of Hingham, MA, though.  In fact, almshouses were abundant throughout the colonies and United States way before Hingham erected “Town Farm.”

The first almshouse in the United States was founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 1622. The original Almshouse was burned down in 1682. When they decided to rebuild it they chose a different location.  But, these alhouses also dotted the Northeast in such places as Pennsylvania.

However, almshouses weren’t just used for altruistic purposes.  In addition to providing a needed home for the poor, mentally ill and physically impaired, the homes were also used by some as a place to drop off vagrants, criminals and addicts.  This made some of the almshouses unsafe.  Allegations of neglect and unsanitary conditions were also rampant at some of the homes.

By the late 1800s and part of the 1900s, almshouses were largely gone.  This was in part because the Social Security Act prohibited federally aided old-age assistance to residents of public institutions.  This was because the creation Social Security was thought to make these types of homes unnecessary.  Little did they realize how healthcare costs would sky rocket in the ensuing years.  The prohibition of legally funded almshouses also paved the way for privatized elderly care homes.

 

Author: New England Nomad

Hi I'm Wayne. Welcome to my blog. I am a true New Englander through and through. I love everything about New England. I especially love discovering new places in New England and sharing my experiences with everyone. I tend to focus on the more unique and lesser known places and things in New England on my blog. Oh yeah, and I love dogs. I always try to include at least one dog in each of my blog posts. I discovered my love of photography a couple of years ago. I know, I got a late start. Now, I photograph anything that seems out of the ordinary, interesting, beautiful and/or unique. And I have noticed how every person, place or thing I photograph has a story behind it or him or her. I don't just photograph things or people or animals. I try to get their background, history or as much information as possible to give the subject more context and meaning. It's interesting how one simple photograph can evoke so much. I am currently using a Nikon D3200 "beginner's camera." Even though there are better cameras on the market, and I will upgrade some time, I love how it functions (usually) and it has served me well. The great thing about my blog is you don't have to be from New England, or even like New England to like my blog (although I've never met anyone who doesn't). All you have to like is to see and read about new or interesting places and things. Hopefully, you'll join me on my many adventures in New England!

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