Richmond Almshouse, West Building

Historical Significance

The original building of the Richmond Almshouse was erected in 1860-61 as a place of refuge for indigent whites. During the Civil War, the house was converted into a hospital and later served as temporary quarters for the Virginia Military Institute. In 1900, the need to assist both poor whites and poor blacks led to the creation of the Virginia Conference of Charities and Corrections. In 1908, Richmond's city council authorized the construction of a home for the city's poor blacks (the "West Building"), erected immediately west of the 1861 almshouse, as Jim Crow laws required blacks and whites to live in separate quarters.

Almshouses, also referred to as Poorhouses, were tax-supported residential institutions to which people were required to go if they could not support themselves. Family members could also commit relatives to the Poorhouse if they were not able to care for them. They began as a method of providing taxpayers with a less expensive alternative to "outdoor relief" (known today as "welfare").

By the late 1970's, the almshouse complex was sold to developers for conversion to apartments for low-income elderly residents. 

Physical Description

Italianate structure designed by Richmond engineer, Washington Gill.

Geographical and Contact Information

206 Hospital Street
Richmond, Virginia
23219

Cite this Page:

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, “Richmond Almshouse, West Building,” African American Historic Sites Database, accessed November 24, 2017, http://www.aahistoricsitesva.org/items/show/358.

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