In the 1800s, it seemed no town was complete without an asylum or almshouse. In some cases, these institutions purported to treat mental illness; in reality, most were designed to warehouse those who couldn’t function in town; there was no social safety net for the poor and those who couldn’t work.

In 1806, a private home used as a hospital since the smallpox epidemic was converted into a poorhouse/asylum and then in 1870 Provincetown’s Town Asylum was built on Alden Street; it’s now known as the Grace Gouveia Building. It stayed an asylum until 1956.

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