In the late 1800s Lanark County’s population was booming as railways and industries brought prosperity. But along with it came poverty, people had no place to go, and it was one thing after another, whether it was cholera, influenza, or diphtheria.
On February 2, 1903 the new House of Industry was erected by the county of Lanark on a seventy-eight-acre lot, immediately outside the limits of the town of Perth. It was opened by Rev. A. H. Scott, M.A., of St. Andrew’s Church, Perth, and Rev. Canon Mickelson, of St. James Church, who were entrusted by the County Council with the dedication of the building.
The members of the Lanark Council, the clergy of Perth, and the mayors of adjoining municipalities dined together at noon, and after dinner the building was dedicated. After the dedication an examination was made of the different parts of the new structure. The general public was supplied with substantial refreshments during the afternoon and evening.
The upper storey of the building was converted into an auditorium from the platform of which addresses were delivered appropriate to the occasion. J. A. Stewart, LL.B., mayor of Perth, gave the first address, Hon. John Haggart, M.P., and Col Matheson M.L.A., both of Perth, followed. Mayor McKim, of Smiths Fallls W. C. Caldwell, M.L.A., of Lanark; and Dr. Preston, of Carleton Place, were the other speakers. Judge Senkler presented Councillor Pattie the chairman of the building committee, with a souvenir chain of gold. The ceremony in connection was impressive and over two thousand people were present at the opening of the building.
The founders of the House of Industry were later criticized for a judgmental attitude that distinguished between the “deserving poor” (elderly people and invalids who were unable to work) and the “undeserving poor” (able-bodied people who couldn’t find a job because of such problems as alcoholism). But after researching the institution’s history they do deserve credit for helping people who were falling through the cracks. They really did make a difference.
The men slept separately and there was a dormitory upstairs for the women. In the morning they got some oatmeal and tea and then they were asked to contribute some labour. The women did some sewing and the men spent an hour or two chopping kindling, or working on their farm. Then they were expected to go and look for a job.
As a rule they tried to get the children out of the House at the age of about 14. They apprenticed some of the boys, and got places of service for the girls. It was not often boys and girts were put into the House of Industry who were of a desirable class; when they were bright some relative generally took them. They kept no registry of what became of the children after they left the House, neither did they keep up correspondence with them.
The House of Industry was not known for gourmet fare. Staff were instructed that the soup should be nutritious, but not so tasty that people would be tempted to comeback for more. While some residents stayed just a few days, it soon became clear that others needed a permanent home. Before the construction of this House of Industry in Perth the only alternative place to house indigent residents was in the county jail, so this was much better for the 90-100 people that lived there.
The Corporation of the County of Lanark has had a long history in the provision of residential care for seniors and other people requiring residential services. It began in February 1903 when the doors to the House of Industry opened in the stone part of the building next door, now called Perth Community Care Centre. In 1966, the County sold this building (at that time it was called Tayview Home), and proceeded to build a brand new 110-bed home and named it Lanark Lodge. The doors opened in September 1967, and all the residents from Tayview were moved to the adjacent, newly built Lanark Lodge. There have been two major building and renovation projects since at Lanark Lodge. In 1974, an additional 66 beds were added. Immediately thereafter, Fairview Manor was built by the County of Lanark in Almonte, opening its doors in 1977 to keep pace with the growing waiting lists of seniors needing a home. Lanark Lodge was again renovated in 1988 with the addition of a new wing, and the old part of the building was subsequently renovated in 1990 to improve the standard of physical space. Subsequent to the latest renovation in 1990, Lanark Lodge reduced its capacity from 176 to 163 residents.
Fairview Manor was divested to the Almonte General Hospital in the fall of 2004, leaving Lanark Lodge the sole long-term care home operated by the County of Lanark.