Georgetown Time Machine: Georgetown Poor House

This week for Georgetown Time Machine, GM was looking through the Henry Wagner collection at the Historical Society of Washington, DC and came across something he’d never heard of before: the Georgetown Poor House.

If you’ve read pretty much any book by Charles Dickens, you know that poor houses were facilities were the poorest residents of a community could go and live. The accommodations were notoriously spartan and the residents were expected to provide labor in exchange for the housing and food. But GM had never heard of such a place being in Georgetown. Turns out it wasn’t quite in Georgetown.

The Georgetown Poorhouse (also known as the Poor and Workhouse) was located in what is now Glover Park. Specifically, it was located just to the east of where the Guy Mason rec center now stands. It was built by the city of Georgetown in 1832, when this area was part of Georgetown.

GM could write up a detailed history of the facility, but Carlton Fletcher has already done so. But in short, the Poorhouse continued until shortly after the city of Georgetown was abolished. In 1875 the grounds were turned over to the Industrial Home School. The school enlarged the campus quite a bit over the ensuing decades, but by the middle of the 20th century it was closed and almost completely torn down. Only the schoolhouse remained, which is now the aforementioned Guy Mason Rec Center.

The above photo was taken around the turn of the 20th century, so it hadn’t really been the Georgetown Poorhouse for roughly 25 years. But names and memories linger, and surely that applies to poorhouses especially.


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