Don’t sell Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living!

stop_privatization-now

Our community has provided care and shelter for the needy, the sick, and the elderly since colonial times. In 1768, the Maryland Assembly passed legislation authorizing and requiring the establishment of almshouses for the poor in every County. By 1773, Frederick County had built its first home for the poor in keeping with the Maryland law, as well as the religious tradition and secular practice in England reaching back to the tenth century. For 245 years, Frederick County citizens and governments have honored a tradition, providing housing, food, and health care to our neighbors in need; to immigrants and racial minorities; to the old, the young, and the infirm; and to those displaced by wars, economic hard times, and disaster.

In 1828, the Levy Court (forerunner of today’s Board of County Commissioners) purchased 90 acres of land for the furtherance of these long-held traditions. They specifically added a covenant declaring the land a charitable trust in perpetuity, “for the benefit of the poor of said county, and to and for no other use, intent or purpose whatsoever.”

By 1832, the County had built the “Old House”, as it came to be known, after the much-larger Montevue Hospital (and home) was built in 1870. Upon completion of the Hospital, white residents from the Old House were moved into the new facility, while African-Americans remained in the older home.

At about the same time, another building, the so-called “Tramp House”, was converted into a hospital for the County’s black population. It stood as the only facility of its kind until 1919, when Frederick’s first black physician built a small hospital with 15 beds. Even the Frederick City Hospital (built in 1902) would not admit African Americans until 1928, while the Montevue infirmary (added in 1910) continued to provide the only obstetric care for black women in the County until 1934.

The infirmary, also known as the “Pest House”, cared for patients with infectious diseases who couldn’t find treatment, elsewhere. Between 1910 and 1911, the infirmary treated forty-nine cases of typhoid fever. During the flu epidemic of 1914 – 1915, the Frederick City Hospital refused to admit victims and some 300 were then treated at Montevue. During the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, Montevue hosted the American Red Cross treatment center and hub for logistical operations throughout the County.

From September, 1862 – March 1863, the County maintained a convalescent facility for Union soldiers recovering from battle. In the years following the Civil War, Montevue provided shelter for the displaced and dispossessed, veterans and civilians, alike. In the 1870’s, European immigrants passing through Frederick found temporary rest there, as did refugees from the Depression of 1873. During a five-month period alone (from late 1876 – early 1877), the home served as many as 8,800 transients.

After 1934, the building served as an emergency hospital for all, continuing in operation during the Great Depression, throughout World War II, and beyond.

Indeed, it is not just the elderly who have been served by the Montevue endowment over the years, but many who suffered either temporary emergencies, or long-term adversity—orphaned children, for example, and citizens forced into homelessness by unemployment, fires, or natural disasters. Indeed, public assistance has been available to all since 1768, from the Levy Court of Colonial times, to today’s Board of County Commissioners.
The Montevue endowment has served as Frederick County’s bedrock of caring and social commitment for 185 years. We are faced now, with a government that would terminate all public assistance and even sell off our County homes and parts of the Montevue endowment, which we’ve held and maintained for the benefit of all, since 1828.

In many respects, the Montevue Trust, with its deeded covenant, marks a peak in our progress as a society and epitomizes our determined response—as individual members—to the needs of that society. At the same time, it just might be the last bulwark against the final destruction of the social safety net in Frederick County. If we can’t defend these–here and now–what sort of future can we provide for anyone in need? What will we leave for posterity?