Former poor farm gets national historic designation

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 

The site of the former Clark County Poor Farm has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The property at 1919 N.E. 78th St. in Hazel Dell now is known as the 78th Street Heritage Farm.

The national historic listing follows a state designation two months ago, when the site was added to the Washington Heritage Register.

In an era before the social safety net, Clark County operated a poor farm on the site from as early as 1873 until 1943.

The 99-acre site is historically significant for its association with social welfare and poor-farm relief programs, Allyson Brooks, state historic preservation officer, said in a news release.

"Counties operated poor farms throughout the United States until the system was reorganized in the 1930s, and then largely discontinued following the Roosevelt administration's passage and implementation of Social Security legislation," Brooks said.

The most prominent feature of the site is a beige building on the south side of 78th Street. The two-story landmark was built in 1926 in a design influenced by Italian Renaissance style. It's currently home to the offices of Washington State University Clark County Extension.

"The poor farm in Clark County is the best and most intact example of the poor-farm system in the state," Michael Houser, state architectural historian, said after it was listed in the state register in November.

"It is the first — and most likely the only one — to be listed" in the state register, Houser said.

After several decades as a university-operated agricultural research station, the site was returned to the county in 2008.