Sometimes when I travel I'm amazed by the history that's found in the most odd places. I'd finished my work for the day and opted to not eat my dinner on property, instead deciding to take a quiet drive along the historic Route 30 to Multnomah Falls. While driving, I saw off to my left a small sign almost obscured by bushes that said, "Edgefield Manor." With a quick jerk to the right, (those who know my driving know this is easy for me,) I found a winding driveway up to a large building that bore the name Edgefield Manor. I wandered throughout the grounds, slowly discovering the beauty and history contained on the property.At least ten or twelve outbuildings had all been restored and housed things outside of the main lodge, like a movie theatre and pub, Jerry Garcia's bar which sat only 10 people, the Black Rabbit gourmet restaurant, a distillery, gift shop, tea house and vineyards.
Seems this property had a rich past, most notably as an Oregon "poor house." The dark hallways and doors just inside Edgefield were painted with some of the prior residents, their faces long and sad. Black and white photographs intermingled with faded walpaper and gave this explorer the chance to think about who they were, what lives and circumstances brought them to this place. The smell was not musty as one might expect, but savorful and rich, most notable because of the Black Rabbit Restaurant.
After talking with a few staff I discovered that the place was supposedly haunted, or at least a few of the rooms are and that guests can request to stay in a haunted room. Old women and several young children (the place had once been an orphanage,) had been seen in various rooms and on the grounds throughout the years. Poorhouses or Poor Farms as they were called were homes people were required to go to if they could not support themselves. They were tax-supported and used as a system of what would be known today as "welfare." They requested assistance, or someone might do it for them,from a town official. If the "help" was deemed to be long term, they'd be sent to the poor farm. They might also be sent there if they were found begging.
I actually have a memory of a poor farm in Indiana that was situated between Elkhart and Goshen. It was next to a county park. The structure was large, white with a huge garden in front of it. I can remember drving past the old place, it's 14 residents sitting on the front porch on those hot and humid summer days waving at the passing cars. Every old man and woman was smiling. I never saw a car turn in and often wondered what happened to those people the day they shut it down.
It was quite a journey this trip and with it I learned about a book that might be of interest to those who go to Portland or enjoy the history of the poor house. It's written by Michael B Katz and it's called In the Shadow of the Poor House:A Social History of WelfareEnjoy!