Livingston County Home and Farm

East building, c. 1850
Courtesy of APOG

The old Livingston County Home Buildings, situated well back from the highway on Route 20A, are a unique group of three large 19th century brick structures built to house the indigent and the insane. These comprised part of a larger complex known as “The Livingston County Home and Farm,” a completely self-sufficient operation.

West (left) and center buildings, c. 1905                          Courtesy of APOG

The Federal style east building was constructed in 1850 to house the “keeper,” the paupers, and the “lunatics.” The two three-story wings on either side of the main section were designed with an open space from the first to the third floor so that the upper two stories were visible from the first floor.  A wooden structure was erected just to the rear of this building about 1863 to serve as housing for the insane when accommodations in the brick building proved inadequate. This burned in 1868, and in the same year a new two-story brick building of Italianate design (now part of the center building) was erected a short distance to the west. This contained two hallways, one for each sex, with cells on either side. In the basement were two dining rooms, a kitchen, two bathrooms, two large cisterns and two portable furnaces. In 1874, a three-story brick addition was made to the west side of this structure to provide more room for the inmates and accommodations for the warden.

East building, 2008

The third (west) building was constructed in 1879-80 to meet the needs of the growing number of indigent insane requiring care. Also of brick, the windows are topped with recessed brick arches with stone lintels and sills. The three-story bay window on the west was added at the suggestion of William Prior Letchworth, then Commissioner of the State Board of Charities.

In 1905, after the mentally ill patients were moved to state institutions, the main, center section of the east building was remodeled on the interior to serve as a home for the Superintendent of the Poor. A wooden corridor was built to connect the center and west buildings, with men housed in one and women in the other. The exteriors of all three structures remain virtually unchanged today; rare examples of 19th century almshouse design.

When purchased, the Livingston County Home and Farm contained 151 acres. Thirty-three more were added in 1870. This was a working farm with most of the work done by the inmates. The property contained its own burial ground located several yards to the north of the main buildings. There were no markers and the location was such that the graves filled with water as soon as they were dug. To remedy this, in 1908-09 a new cemetery was located on a sloping piece of land east of the home. The graves here are marked and both burial grounds are visible today.