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KARE in the Air: Ramsey County Poor Farm Barn in Maplewood

The giant 1918 brick barn played anchor to a government-run farm, where the poor and indigent were housed, fed and cared for.

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. — Our summer barnstorming drone tour continues with a flight over a majestic brick barn with an unconventional history.

The Ramsey County Poor Farm sits near the intersection of Frost and White Bear Avenues. The historic barn the serves as the site's anchor was built in 1918, and once housed 135 cows to provide milk for the indigent residents who lived on the farm and and other Ramsey County Institutional sites.

Poor farms first took shape in Ramsey County in the early 1850s when immigration ramped up, and many new residents struggled with extreme poverty. The concept was that the people who ran the farms were paid to house, feed and care for residents, with the goal of making the operations self-sufficient. 

The City of Maplewood website says the farm even had its own power plant, fueled by coal unloaded from a nearby railroad spur. Author Pete Boulay says residents were fed three times a day, and each week turned in their linens for clean ones and acquired a weekly allowance of tobacco. 

Over the years the location morphed from a farming operation to more of a nursing home, and the farmland surrounding the buildings was first rented, and then sold.  

One of the more interesting chapters in the history of the Ramsey County Poor Farm came in the 1990's, when it was turned into a very popular haunted house that raised money for the Ramsey County Sheriff's Foundation.

The old brick barn is the only building in Maplewood to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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