Onondaga County began its tradition of caring for those individuals unable to care for themselves with the founding of The Onondaga County Home, known then as the “poorhouse,” in December of 1827. “Inmates”, as they were then called, included individuals with ‘incurable’ diseases such as tuberculosis and cancer, crippled persons who could no longer work, indigents and those who were destitute. In 1860 a building was completed for the accommodation of the insane. This safety net role was one played by many governments at that time.
It was not until 1900 that an infirmary for the segregation of physically ill persons was constructed and in 1916 the Onondaga County Tuberculosis Sanatorium was opened. By 1945 the infirmary had more patients than any other medical facility in the County and the Welfare Department was swamped with admission applications. By that time, there were 254 beds for patients requiring acute care, a maternity ward, 150 beds for the disabled requiring less care and 400 ‘inmates’ of the county home in facilities scattered across Onondaga Hill. In 1948, the County turned the Tuberculosis Sanatorium over to the New York State Department of Health who finally closed the sanatorium in 1959 as medical treatment modalities no longer called for such a facility. A part of the former sanatorium grounds was deeded to the Community General Hospital of Greater Syracuse.
In the 1950s the services of the County Home were reorganized as the hospital care system in the community evolved. In 1962 the County Home farm campus was abandoned and other County departments took over some of the property, including the Onondaga Community College and Hillbrook Detention Center. Other residential programs remained in operation. Medicare and Medicaid were passed in 1965, marking a major shift in America’s philosophy and financing for the care of the aged and disabled. Onondaga County responded to this change and to the growing need for care for the elderly and began construction of the new (current) Van Duyn Home and Hospital in 1975.
Wright, Kenneth W. M.D., From Poorhouse to Medical Facility: Genesis of Onondaga County Infirmary, New York State Journal of Medicine/September 1979