Summary: Text and pictures from an article in New England Magazine describing every day life in the poorhouses, including a facility designated just for elderly couples.
The New England Magazine
Volume 24, Issue 2, April 1898
By William I. Cole.
THREE of Boston's public institutions are on islands in the harbor. One of the Houses of Correction is on Deer Island, the House of Reformation for boys, on Rainsford Island, and the principal Almshouse, on Long Island. A city boat, the J. Putnam Bradlee, serves as transport between these and the city proper, making two round trips a day, a morning trip for carrying more especially mails and freight, and an afternoon trip for passengers. Different parts of this boat are assigned to the different grades of passengers from the institution's point of view. The commissioner of Penal Institutions, in whose hands is the control of the House of Correction, has a cabin of his own on the upper deck and the exclusive use of the hurricane deck the trustees of the Children's and of the Pauper Institutions, the governing bodies of the House of Reformation and of the Almshouse respectively, have their cabin on the main deck; superintendents and their deputies, the chaplain, and members of 233 the city office force enjoy the privileges of the pilot house; ordinary passengers have the freedom of the upper deck and a small saloon opening from it; while prisoners for Deer and Rainsford Islands and paupers for Long Island find accommodations on the deck below, the former in rooms where they are placed under lock and key. The presence of the Commissioner on board is announced by the display at the masthead of the institution's flag, a blue field with white ball containing an anchor surrounded by the words, City of Boston, Institutions Dept. in blue; that of the Trustees, by a plain blue flag.
The House of Correction and the House of Reformation, of the harbor institutions, have been described in other articles of this series; the Almshouse remains to be described.
Long Island is slightly less than a mile from Deer Island and somewhat more than half a mile from Rainsford Island. It is about a mile and three quarters long and a quarter of a mile wide, and in shape resembles a high military boot with toe pointed downward. It derives its name from its great length when compared with its breadth; or, as Wood says in his "New Englands Prospect," written in 1635: "The next Island of note is Long Island, so called from his longitude." The outer end of the island, or the top of the boot, rises abruptly to a height of seventy feet above the level of high water, and is known as Long Island Head. Here a lighthouse has been maintained since 1819; and at the present time fortifications for the defence of the harbor are in process of construction.
With the exception of this head, which is the property of the United States Government, the island was purchased by the city thirteen years ago for the site of an almshouse. Before possession could be entered upon, however, it had to be cleared of a colony of Portuguese lobstermen, who without any titular rights had established here their homes. After the time for vacating allowed these squatters by the city had expired, most of them persisted in staying on and met with some show of resistance all efforts to remove them. They were dislodged finally by eviction and the burning of their houses. A few of the colony still remain on the government side of the island, their row of shanties, near the dividing line, showing picturesquely where the city ownership ends and that of the government begins.
In 1887, a large brick building, the present "institution", having been erected, the female paupers were brought here from Austin Farm, whither they had been removed from Deer Island ten years before. But these were not destined to remain here a great while at this time. Within two years of their arrival they were transferred to Rainsford Island, where the male paupers had stayed their wanderings since leaving Deer Island in 1872, to take the places of the male paupers who in turn took their places at Long Island. The reason for this change was that on Long Island the men could be set to work, while on Rainsford they had little or nothing to do. When the hospital on Long Island was ready for occupancy, in 1893, however, the inmates of the Rainsford Island hospital were removed to it; and on the completion of the women's building, two years later, all the women were brought back.
The abandoned almshouse on Rainsford Island was taken possession of, in the same year, by the juvenile offenders, who were brought over from Deer Island, and became the present House of Reformation for boys.
In point of buildings, the Long Island Almshouse ranks among the best of the city institutions. Besides the "institution" already referred to, a well-built and commodious building, there is a model women's dormitory, an excellent hospital on the pavilion plan, a neat Gothic chapel with an attractive interior, and a fine superintendent's house.
The "institution," in which are the offices of the institution and the accommodations for the male paupers, is rectangular in shape, two hundred feet long and forty-five feet wide, three stories high, with a large extension leading back from the middle of the rear. The entrance hall runs through the centre of the main building. From either side of this opens a suite of offices and a great dormitory, and from the rear, into the extension, the general dining room. Back of this dining room come the officer's dining room, the kitchen and the general laundry of the island. On the two floors above are officers quarters, additional dormitories, of which there are four, a hall, and a sewing room in which clothing for the men is made and repaired. The basement contains the receiving room, where newcomers are entered, storerooms, the lavatory, and a large brick-paved room, lighted by half windows and furnished with rude tables and benches, known as "loafer's hall," where the men may spend their leisure time. The entire building is heated by steam and lighted by electricity.
The "institution" is supposed to have accommodations for three hundred men, fifty in each of the six wards. At the present time, though, it is housing four hundred and eighty, overcrowding four of the wards and pressing into service a large room never intended to be used as a ward.
Of a different plan and style of construction is the women's building. This is irregular in shape, with a frontage of one hundred and thirty feet and an extreme depth of one hundred and four feet. It consists of a central section and two wings or ward pavilions, each two stories in height. The entrance is from a vestibule into the main ball and day room, where there is a large fireplace and double staircases to the floor above. At the rear of this hall is the main dining room, and on either side are the wards, each thirty-seven by one hundred and three feet, which can be divided into two when necessary. These wards are airy, well-lighted, supplied with fireplaces, and have room each for eighty beds. The bath and toilet rooms are separated from the wards by a "shutoff" corridor and occupy bays. The floor above is arranged on practically the same plan. Here is the matrons' and attendants' dining room. In the basement are the office, receiving room, kitchen, and storerooms. As in the "institution" the heating is by steam and the lighting by electricity.
In construction, the women's dormitory is of the "open-timber work" style. Its exterior walls are filled with terra-cotta blocks, the outside of which is covered with cement, the whole forming panels between the timbers of the frame. This style of construction has the advantage over the ordinary in respect to cheapness and incombustibility. Unfortunately, however, it is not as damp-proof as fire-proof.
The largest of the buildings in ground area is the hospital, which has a frontage of two hundred and eleven feet and a depth of three hundred and fifteen feet. It is divided into three parallel ward pavilions, connected across the front by a corridor, in the centre of which is the administration building and at either end a "head-house." The administration building is three stories high, all the others being one story. The wings are divided into two or three continuous wards and together have room for three hundred beds. Two of the wings are for women and one for men. Between the middle wing or pavilion and those on either side are great courts for light and air. Connected with each ward are sun rooms and toilet and bath rooms. The "head houses" have the offices of administration for the wards, the nurses dining room, the diet kitchen, and rooms for special patients. The general offices of the hospital together with quarters for the physicians. nurses and attendants are in the administration building. Ventilation throughout the hospital is by the aid of fans. In style of construction the hospital is identical with the women's building; as is also the chapel. The superintendents house is of wood.
Permits to Boston's Almshouses are obtained of the Institutions Registration Bureau, one of the five departments into which the Institutions Department was divided by the legislation of last year. The applicant fills out a form with name, date and place of birth, occupation, habits, residence, and other like data. On these representations, supplemented by an investigation into his antecedents and circumstances, the Bureau decides as to the applicants pauperism and legal settlement, the two points on which a permit is issued. The character and past record of the applicant, whatever they may be, while noted by the Bureau, are not taken by it into the consideration of his case, since they affect in no way his status as regards the almshouse. That rests solely on the questions of legal settlement and need. He may have done time at the house of correction or the state prison, he may have been in and out of one and another poorhouse innumerable times, he may be a common drunkard but if he has a settlement in Boston and cannot support himself, he can go to the almshouse, according to the law.
Neither are the circumstances of his relatives taken into the consideration of his case; since however well-to-do any of these may be, they cannot be compelled to maintain him outside of the almshouse. Children ,grandchildren, parents or grandparents, however, could be required to pay his board in the almshouse, if able to do so, with the exception of a married daughter whose husband is living. Other relatives would not be liable, whatever their circumstances. As a matter of fact, however, this law of liability is practically a dead letter on account of the difficulty of enforcing it.
Should the applicant have no settlement, he can be sent to the state almshouse; or if his settlement is in some other city or town than Boston, he can be sent to the city almshouse on the understanding that the place of his settlement will pay his board.
Naturally the number of inmates at Long Island varies with the season, reaching its lowest point in summer and its highest in winter. On the first of July last there were in the men's building 184; in the women's building 167, and in the hospital 144; on the first of the following January there were in the same buildings 397, 208 and 149 respectively. It will be observed that the variation in the case of the men outside the hospital was much greater than in that of the women, while in the case of the sick it was practically nothing. As a rule the male population is about twice as great in winter as in summer and the hospital population remains about constant. The following table shows the movement of the population during 1897:
|Remaining Jan. 31, 1897||488||327||815|
|Admissions, including births||625||395||1,020|
|Discharged, including deaths||1,113||722||1,835|
|Whole number supported||612||364||976|
|Absent on leave||5||1||6|
|Whole number of removals||617||365||982|
|Remaining Jan. 31, 1898||496||357||853|
|Largest number present||512||363||875|
|Smallest number present||247||305||552|
Ten of the seventeen children born were illegitimate.
Some of the occupations of those admitted last year were: Laborers, 230; printers, stone masons, 8; teamsters, 52; painters, 24; cooks (women), 32 ; seamstresses, 13; housework, 275; laundresses, 23; no occupation (women), 30; carpenters, 5; firemen, 7; clerks, 8; plumbers, 4; book agent and variety actor, 1 each. It is a motley and shifting population at Long Island, representing every age from 20 to 90, every physical condition from robust health to all varieties of infirmity and disease, every grade of mental ability from fair intelligence to feeble mindedness mild dementia, and every type of the unfortunate, the vagrant, and the vicious.
Of the 1,020 received last year, 39 were under 20 years, 101 between 20 and 40, 280 and 30, 228 between 30 between 40 and 50, 165 between 50 and 6o, 127 between 60 and 70, 63 between 70 and 80, and 17 between 80 and 90.
A glimpse of some of the types may be had from the following "settlement histories", selected almost at random from those on which permits were granted as recently as last January. Of course the correct names are not given.
Peter Doherty. Age 78. Born in Ireland but has lived in Boston since 1842 with the exception of the period between time 1859 and 1872, when he was in California. Before 1859 he had built and owned two houses. On his return from California he was robbed of a considerable sum of money. Since 1883 he has been in the almshouse 30 times. Is intemperate occasionally.
John J. ORourke. Born in Charlestown, 1863. His father at one time paid taxes on real estate. Is a teamster, intemperate. Left his wife about eight years ago on account of her intemperate habits. Has never had to be aided before. Was at Deer Island in September, 1897. Needs medical treatment.
Edward Miller. Born in Halifax in 1866 but has been thirty years in the United States. Is a carriage smith, intemperate. IHas received no public aid. Does not know his wife's present whereabouts. Has two children in the Mareella Street Home. Needs medical treatment. His father and stepmother unable to aid him on account of their own sickness.
Sarah Gallagher. Age 62. Is by occupation a domestic, intemperate. Has been, under an assumed name, at Deer Island 20 or more times. In and out of the almshouse 36 times since 1883.
William J. Downey. Age 44. Is a peddler, intemperate. At one time well-to-do but in a freak sold his business for almost nothing. On the death of his wife in the Massachusetts General Hospital of consumption, her mother took the three children. Later, a sister adopted the youngest. The man probably has a record in House of Correction. Has been in and out of the almshouse 41 times since 1885. Makes a paralyzed arm an excuse for not working. Met at Long Island a pauper woman whom he married for his second wife. The two children of this marriage are now in institutions. Two brothers of the man are at Long Island with consumption.
Mary Griffin. Age 69. Born in Scotland. Very intemperate. Has been in House of Correction 24 times for drunkenness and vagrancy. Last time in June, 1897, In and out of the almshouse 15 times in past 15 years. Extremely troublesome wherever she is.
Not only do these sample "settlement histories" give us glimpses of the variegated characters at Long Island; they suggest how many of these must have been criminal offenders at some time. Out of the 872 different individuals admitted in 1876, 244 men or 48 percent, and 184 women or 60 percent had been recent inmates of penal institutions. Long Island and Deer Island are not far apart literally or figuratively. Inmates of the latter as recently as last June and one as recently as last November are now inmates of the the former.
Again these "histories" hint, in the case of Downey, whose children by his pauper wife are public charges, at what undoubtedly would be found true could the facts be got at, namely, that Boston, and presumably other cities as well, is carrying along in its various institutions, a tolerably permanent pauper and criminal class. Not a few of the present inmates at Long Island are known to have been born in some institution, and in one institution or another, pauper or penal, to have passed most of their days. One of the children born at the island this winter was the fourteenth child born of the same mother in a city institution.
This heterogeneous population is constantly changing. The aged and infirm stay on, of course, from year to year, but the younger and more active elements grow restless after a time and drop away, to return perhaps in a few weeks or even a few days. As a matter of fact, during 1896 there were admitted once, 724, twice, 175, three times, 38, four times, 18, five times, 5, nine times, 2. To put some check on this free and easy going and coming the following order was issued about a year ago:
"Any person admitted to any almshouse of this city shall be so admitted only upon signing an agreement that he will remain in the house to which he will be sent until the last Saturday of the month next succeeding his admission, and, if he does not apply for his discharge at least five days prior to said last Saturday, that he will remain until the last Saturday of the month in which he shall so apply, unless sooner released by order of the Commissioner; and that he will comply with all the regulations of the house, and the directions of the officers thereof."
While this rule regulates to some extent the going and coming, it does not prevent an exodus from the island from the first signs of spring to midsummer and a return procession after the early frosts. As has been pointed out, the number of male inmates outside the hospital is much more variable than that of the female, being in summer about half what it is in winter, while the number of the latter is quite uniform the year round. The men and women at Long Island occupy different buildings, and, of course, different wards in the hospital; but they attend chapel together, the men sitting on one side and the women on the other, and come into contact with one another in the common laundry and on the grounds. One of the rules of the Island forbids communication, either written or oral, between male and female inmates, except by permission of the superintendent. Another rule aims to prevent any unnecessary meeting of the two sexes on the grounds. It reads "Male inmates are positively forbidden, except on business, to walk or loiter on that portion of the island lying east of the male institution building; females, that portion of the island lying west of the female building."
With the exception of this imperfect separation of the sexes, there is practically no classification aside from what is made by physical condition which may place inmates in the hospital or infirmary. Women with infants, however, have a dormitory of their own in the women's building. In the institution dining room also some attempt is made to have the older men sit on one side of a low screen running down the length of the room and the younger men on the other side. The reason for such division is not apparent.
Those of the same sex intermingle with little or no restraint. The male paupers have a common meeting place in "loafers hall," where they play cards, read and smoke; the female paupers, in the central hall, or day room, of their building, in which they sew, read and doze, sitting in rows on high-backed settles. If the inmates of either building wish to be more by themselves, they can withdraw to their dormitories. In the summer time they sit out of doors when the weather is fine.
In addition to being well housed, the inmates at Long Island are well clothed and fed. None are allowed to use during their stay any of the garments that they brought with them, but on arrival are comfortably fitted out with wearing apparel, while their own clothes are taken to be cleansed, repaired, and put away for them until such time as they depart.
In the system of discipline moral persuasion of necessity very largely takes the place of punishment. But deprivation of privileges may be used as a means of punishment, and, in cases of flagrant disobedience, solitary confinement. The privilege that is most commonly and effectively cut off in the case of the men is the weekly ration of one-third of a pound of tobacco. The solitary cells were used but 6o times last year, 23 coming in the first two months.
Those of the inmates who are able to work are given employment of some kind. Besides performing domestic duties of every sort, they work in the laundry and sewing rooms, and the men in the carpentry shop, about the grounds and on the farm. None of them are paid for their services, who are not required in or about the An idea of the work accomplished by them along certain lines will be conveyed by a few figures. In the sewing rooms, in 1897,the repairing for the entire institution was done and the following articles, among others, manufactured: Aprons, 1,412, bedticks, 105; dresses, 891; night 492; night caps, 362; petticoats, 993; pillow-slips, 850; shoulder shawls, 378; sheets, 1,227; towels, 729; and shrouds, 43.
There were raised on the farm during the same year all the vegetables used by the almshouse, except potatoes, together with hundreds of plants for decorating the grounds, and large quantities of pork and milk.
But all the able bodied are by no means fully occupied, especially in winter, on account of what may be called the institution's deficient industrial equipment. The sewing rooms, for instance, have fewer machines than could be used. "With more machines," a former superintendent says in his report for 1896, the men's outside clothing could be made, and the expense saved of having it made at Deer Island." There is, to be sure, the large farm; but unfortunately this cannot be cultivated during the season when the number of men is the greatest. With the exception of the sewing rooms with their limited capacity, and the farm, which can be worked only a part of the year, there are no means of utilizing the labor of those buildings or on the grounds. Many therefore have little to do, less perhaps than would be good for them. There is, of course, a very large number of those unable to work and hence condemned to pass their time in absolute idleness. But this number could be reduced undoubtedly by more varied means of employment, and many be made the happier for having something to do.
The somewhat monotonous life at the island may be varied by an occasional visit to the city on passes. These passes can be obtained after a residence of three months, but only on a record for good behavior. They entitle the holder to an absence of from one to seven days. As a rule no one can get a pass oftener than once in three months.
The hospital, although a part of the almshouse, is of sufficient importance in itself to be considered a separate institution. The total number of patients in 1897 was 387 men and 573 women. Of these, 305 men and 409 women were admitted during the year, and 297 men and 426 women were discharged. The largest number at any one time was 281, and the smallest, 233. Besides those treated in the hospital, 883 were treated as out-patients. Among the diseases treated were, in the hospital: General debility, 65; senile debility, 91; rheumatism, 38; phthisis, 96; tuberculosis, 4; typhoid fever, 4; alcoholism, 23; epilepsy, 19; dementia, including senile, 34; bronchitis, 29; pneumonia, 13; venereal diseases, 64; and, in the outpatient department: Rheumatism, 39; alcoholism, 16; debility, 71; and venereal, 23. The other ailments treated would exhaust the nomenclature of diseases. The insane are transferred to some hospital for the insane, but cases of mild dementia are retained. Twenty-three cases of insanity were transferred during 1897.
In a hospital of this description the death rate must necessarily be very great. The morgue, which is a separate building, is seldom if ever free from dead bodies. Not infrequently it contains six or seven. About half are claimed by relatives or friends; the rest being buried on the island. The hospital is under the care of a medical superintendent with three assistants. There is a visiting medical and surgical staff. Connected with the hospital is a training school for nurse attendants. The course requires one year and includes general medical, minor surgical, maternity, and infant nursing. Instruction is given by means of lectures and text books, and teaching by the bedside in the regular performance of duties. The first graduating exercises were held in September, 1896; at which time seven pupils received diplomas. There are at present 25 in the school.
The idea that an almshouse hospital should be conducted differently from other hospitals would seem to be fast disappearing. And it should disappear; as the last report of the Long Island almshouse well says: "Whether dependent or independent, sick persons should receive the best possible care, and it is better economy as well as better humanity to insist that the standard of this hospital should be as good as that of any other."
One of the greatest needs of the Long Island hospital is that of a separate building for both men. and women suffering from tuberculosis, who now are kept in open ward. There is need also of an isolation ward for other contagious diseases. Among the rules and regulations for Long Island are the following:
Inmates immediately upon their arrival at the almshouse, unless excused by a physician, must take a bath and change their citizens clothing for a full outfit of institution clothes. Inmates will not be allowed to wear any of their own clothing while in the institution except by express permission of the Superintendent, and all money must be given to the Superintendent for safe keeping.
Inmates must rise at 5.15 A. M., and retire at 8 P. M., at which time all lights must be turned down. The gong will be sounded at those hours.
The regular hours for labor will be from 7 to 11.45 A. M., and from to 4.45 P. M. Hours for meals will be breakfast, 6 A.. M.; dinner, 12 M.; supper, 5 P. M.
Smoking is prohibited within 1,500 feet of any building, or in the building outside of the regular smoking rooms.
Inmates are forbidden, except on business, to enter the barn or other out-buildings, or to loiter about them or the wharves.
Inmates must be bathed at least once a week, and cleanliness both in person and in habits will be enforced. Male inmates must be at their bedside at 11 A. M., and female inmates at 2.30 P. M., every Sunday to undergo inspection of clothing.
Profane, obscene and impertinent language, disorderly or insubordinate conduct, talking in the dormitories after retiring, wilful destruction of institution property, annoying cranky or feeble-minded inmates are strictly prohibited. Inmates must perform such work as may be assigned to them faithfully and well, and obey the orders of their officers and rules of the institution cheerfully and promptly. Leave of absence will be granted to males on Monday; to females on Wednesday.
Dr. L. F. Wentworth, the superintendent, although still a young man, has had considerable and varied institutional experience. Before coming to Long Island he had been assistant physician at the Brattleboro, Vermont, insane asylum, assistant superintendent of the state insane asylum, Topeka, Kansas, superintendent of the state insane asylum at Osawatomie, Kansas, and in the service of the Massachusetts state board of lunacy and charity. He entered upon the duties of his present position in April, 1897.
Besides the almshouse on Long Island there is a much smaller almshouse in Charlestown. This was opened in 1849 as the Charlestown almshouse, but on the annexation of that city to Boston in 1873 it was continued as a Boston poor-house more especially for pauper couples.
The building is of brick, 100 feet long, two stories high, with two wings. To either end a large, attractive sun room has been added within a few years. One half of this building is used for men, and one half for women, the two parts being cut off more or less completely one from the other. In either division, besides two or three dormitories, the largest of which has but 30 beds, there are more or less completely one from the five beds each. The number of these rooms on the women's side is greater than that on the men's. Each part has its own dining room but shares in a common kitchen and laundry. Husbands, however, eat with their wives in the women's dining room. There is an infirmary but no hospital, those needing constant professional care being removed to the hospital at Long Island.
The largest number of inmates here last year was 150, the smallest, 138. There were admitted, males, 73, females, 37; and discharged, males, 70, females, 45. Eleven deaths occurred.
One of the changes proposed by the Board of Trustees is that this almshouse be made an almshouse for women and aged couples, exclusively. The number of women there is now double the number of men; and by making it an almshouse for women and couples only, a more thorough classification, so the trustees believe, could be secured.
Except in respect to buildings and numbers the Charlestown almshouse differs little from that at Long Island. It has, however, a homelike character which the larger institution lacks. The sun rooms, one containing piano and plants, and the sleeping rooms with their four or five beds are almost cosy. The bill of fare here society is much more varied than that of the other almshouse.
Mr. Chandler Eastman has been superintendent since 1889. Previous to his appointment to his present position he had been connected with the institutions at Deer Island and Rainsford Island. He is a veteran of the civil war.
The appointed work of Boston's pauper institutions has been up to the present time and now is merely to care for the paupers committed to their charge. With reference to this task these institutions should be judged first of all. If they are so judged, much may be said in commendation of them. The inmates are comfortably housed, clothed and fed. While the physically fit are required to work, no one is overworked, and the conditions of labor are salutary. The discipline is humane. Special provision is made for the comfort of the aged and infirm, and the treatment of the sick is by the most improved methods. Life in the almshouses may be monotonous, but on the physical side it rises to a far greater plane than the majority of the inmates ever knew before coming to them. But in these institutions there are two distinct classes, which maybe designated as the worthy and the unworthy, the word "worthy" being used with no reference to moral qualities. The former class comprises the aged, sick, the physically and mentally defective -- in a word, such as could not care for themselves whatever might be their opportunities for self support. The latter class includes all the rest. That it is the duty of to relieve and comfort its also worthy poor, in the sense of worthy as here used, goes without saying; but it can be neither the wisdom nor duty of society to care in the same manner for the tramp, the vagrant, and all the other varieties of the professionally idle and vicious. Indeed its own self-protection demands that in the case of this latter class it pursue some other line of treatment, whose aim shall be either to reform them or at the very least to restrain them from preying upon the public. In Boston's almshouses, however, both classes are under one and the same system, a system that contemplates the worthy poor only, leaving all others out of account. As a result, these latter find here comfortable quarters where they may recover from their last debauch and plan fresh essays on society. If, therefore, these institutions be judged from the point of view of what would seem to be the true function of a pauper institution, they would be found wanting in respect to separating the pauper class proper from the work-house class and treating each by itself. But it should be said in justice to the superintendents and trustees that this radical defect is to be attributed rather to the laws and regulations in accordance with which they must act, than to themselves. As long as both the pauper and the tramp are sent to these institutions, they must both be cared for by them; and while the restraint on leaving is so slight and the industrial equipment of the institution so meagre, thorough classification and reformatory methods are out of the question. The two classes should be separated and the former committed to an established workhouse. Superintendent Wentworth well says in his recent report: There is no good reason, except in very isolated cases, why a man under 50 years of age and in good health should go to an almshouse, and there is something radically wrong in a system which permits the professional impostor to thrive at the expense of the worthy poor. That Boston is not indifferent to its pauper institutions is made evident by the changes for the better effected in them within the last few years, such as: Paid attendants for the sick and a visiting staff of physicians; preparation of the food by an experienced cook; removal of insane patients to the proper asylums; discontinuance of labor by prisoners from Deer Island; a suitable semblance for the transportation of the sick; more comfortable chairs for the aged; and benches out of doors. Still further changes along similar lines are recommended by the Board of Trustees in their annual report. The more important of these recommendations are: Additional kitchen and laundry accommodations; ventilation of the men's building; employment of more paid officers; extension of the nurses training school; new male ward in the hospital; and isolating ward for contagious diseases.
The problem of the dependent poor, of which the functions and conduct of almshouses is but a part, gains in importance and in dignity the longer it is studied. Of the finer aspects of this general problem, as well as of the qualities required in those who would aid in its solution, Rev. Frederick H. Wines beautifully says: "Charity has been often characterized as a religious duty, and its administration as a branch of applied science. But it is also an art, one of the fine arts, comparable with music, painting and sculpture. There are in it unsuspected possibilities of beauty and grace, depending upon the symmetry of its proportions and the combination of its elements. As we feel the beauty of rhythm in poetry when wedded to noble or tender conceptions, or of melody and harmony in music, or of unity, simplicity and variety in a picture or a statue, so charity to excite our admiration should exhibit unity in diversity in its design, be true to nature and to life and be instinct with a love pure as the snows, deathless as the skies, and consecrated to humanity and to God. Ruskin's seven lamps of architecture are also the lights by which its radiant pathway can alone be traced; the lamps of sacrifice, of truth, of power, of beauty, of life, of memory, and of obedience."