In the first quarter of the nineteenth century, when the general public
believed that the insane and paupers could be rehabilitated into productive
citizens, the Ohio Legislature gave authorization to county commissioners
to establish county "poor houses."
The Athens County Home, formerly
own as the Athens County Infirmary, opened on this site in 1857 to provide care for indigent citizens of Athens
County. When fire destroyed
the original building in 1903, a new building was constructed from 1904-
1905, designed with the capacity to house up to one hundred people.
When it was built, it was considered to be one of the finest and most
modern charitable institutions of its time. The facility continued to
provide housing for indigent and elderly residents until 1997 when the
County Commissioners closed the home and it became a primary location
for the delivery of social services in Athens County.
When the Athens County Infirmary opened in 1906, its design and operation incorporated the principles of scientific charity. This social theory moved away from indiscriminate giving, and instead focused on understanding the causes of poverty and what outcomes might be obtained by charitable acts. Children and mentally ill patients, who had resided in the infirmary before 1906, were sent to other locations. The remaining adult
population was divided by sex into separate wings of the building. This included separate dining areas and porches to maintain complete separation of the sexes. Able-bodied residents aided with the farm chores, helping support the operation of the infirmary and the farm on which it resided. Complete with its own livestock, barns, farm equipment, surgical room, and even its own power plant, the facility was nearly self-sufficient.