The Ada County Poor Farm was started with the best of intentions. The January 26, 1883 edition of the Idaho Statesman opined that “Some provision must be made for the care of the poor. Our present county hospital system is for the care of the indigent sick, idiotic and insane. The poor, or that class which may be in destitute circumstances, is not included in the hospital contract.”
The county purchased the property for the Poor Farm from John Hailey, owner of the Pioneer Stage Line, and the man for whom Hailey, Idaho was named. The purchase price of the 160 acres was $5,000.
Putting the poor to work, feeding them, and paying them a little money probably worked in some cases. But it soon became a place to send troublesome citizens the county didn’t know what else to do with. Boise’s notorious drunk, “Jimmy the Stiff” Hogan spent time there more than once. His only objection to the place was that there were “too many bums.”
It turned out that not everyone sent to the farm was capable of work and many of them were unhealthy. Over the years the facility became rundown and mostly ignored by a string of superintendents more interested in padding their pockets than helping the poor. The main building became a place to house orphans, the sick, and the senile, something it wasn’t intended for.
In 1915, J.K. White, state sanitary inspector, paid a visit to the Ada County Poor Farm. His recommendation was “to do away entirely with this old dilapidated, germ laden, bug infested building, and the beds and bedding.” He went on to say, “The system of having these feeble old men take care of their own beds, wash their own clothing and take care of themselves, with no one directly in charge to see that they do it, is nothing short of criminal.”
A few months later the county closed the poor farm and purchased a site on Fairview where they constructed a two-story nursing home that was much better designed to care for the needs of the sick and indigent.