The state mental institution in Athens, Ohio, built in 1868, is an example of the Kirkbride building style that was popular in the late middle 1800s for mental hospitals, so Curator Jessica was excited to hear that a similar building – Anna’s Choate State Hospital – was of similar age and architecture. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)
Almost palatial looking
A website documenting Kirkbride buildings (worth a look) said they were “once state-of-the-art mental healthcare facilities. Kirkbride buildings have long been relics of an obsolete therapeutic method known as Moral Treatment. In the latter half of the 19th century, these massive structures were conceived as ideal sanctuaries for the mentally ill and as an active participant in their recovery. Careful attention was given to every detail of their design to promote a healthy environment and convey a sense of respectable decorum. Placed in secluded areas within expansive grounds, many of these insane asylums seemed almost palace-like from the outside. But growing populations and insufficient funding led to unfortunate conditions, spoiling their idealistic promise.”
Plagued by fires
It’s hard to tell how many times the institution was plagued by fires. One account said the north wing caught fire from unknown causes in 1881, destroying it and killing one patient. In more recent history, the top two floors of the main administration building caught fire and were removed.
Patients are encouraged to work on crafts and projects. Some are on sale in the admin building. THIS patient carved the Great Speckled Bird in the 1960s.
Made some staffers uncomfortable
The patient, who died in the early 1970s, labeled the piece with many biblical references and the names of staff members he didn’t like, making them somewhat uncomfortable.
The “crib bed” was used for patients who needed to be restrained for their own safety or the safety of others. We were told it was rarely used. To my claustrophobic eyes, it looks like a coffin with slats. If I wasn’t mentally disturbed going into the bed, I would be when I was released.
Despite things like this, the hospital got good reviews. An 1893 report on Charitable Institutions of the State of Illinois said “the general appearance of this Hospital is not so neat, and the discipline is not so strict, as in the other State hospitals, but the medical results, in the way of recoveries, have been superior.”
20 percent of patients died
The 1893 report said that the rate of recoveries to total discharges has been 36%; improved, 22%; unimproved, 22%; deaths, 20%. The average per capita maintenance cost in 1892 was $166.63. The average number of inmates in that year was 802 (although the number was probably smaller because of re-admissions and transfers).
Many of the dead before 1939 are buried in unmarked graves in this hilltop cemetery near the hospital.
Newer graves are marked
Some newer graves are marked with simple concrete stones. We were surprised to see no flags are any other indication that an individual had served in the military, unlike the Athens cemetery, where the graves are decorated.
Choate Cemetery at sunset
The sun was starting to dip below the horizon as we were leaving the graveyard.
Anna State Hospital administration building
We had a chance to take one last look at the admin building. The American flag is flying at half-mast because of the killings in Paris.
25 Replies to “Anna’s Choate State Hospital”
Another impressive structure is the prison at Eddyville KY. The Kentucky State Penitentiary sits along the shoreline of Lake Barkley. Also known as “The Castle on The Cumberland”, this is Kentucky’s only maximum-security prison. The main building was completed in 1888.
Do they have underground tunnels like MO State Hospital in Fulton? Those tunnels also have iron “loops” sticking out of walls were patients were attached. I worked there in 1970-71 and while the heated tunnels were warmer to get from building to building that very cold winter, I preferred to steer clear of them!! Talk about a creepy place. The above ground was nice enough, but nothing to brag about. Patients were well cared for and received good treatment unlike in those years of yore.
Yes there are tunnels extending nearly 1 mile under ground. I met a lady who’s mom worked there in the 40s 50s she said it was horrific. The famed psychologist B.F. Skinner had sex with countless patients, and even burnt up the top 2 floors of the old hospital.. oops…. dirty little secrets on one the nation’s most renowned drs.
Yes, there are tunnels. I have been in several of them when I worked the social work field in IL many years ago. My aunt still works here.
Trying to find out if my great grandmother Mattie Hughes True was a patient there from about 1900 on. She disappeared around that time. Last record we can find of her was in Cairo I’ll in 1900 census. Heard she might have had TB, not sure if that though. Her husband had left her, and she gave away her 2 small sons around 1898-99. I wish I could find her.
Is this hospital still open. I am trying to locate a relative that might have been there.
It’s still open. Or, at least, it was when I did this story.
I used to be a patient here back in 1998-99
Ken, how do I reach you?
You just did. I sent you a private email.
In doing Geneology I found my great grandfather died the in 1921. Yes all that is there is graves from 1939. It’s told that by the time my great grandma got heard of his death and got there they had buried him. This is very hard to swallow. There must be something that can be done? Thinking about this.
That was fairly common with institutions housing people that society wanted to hide away. Patient graves at the Carville Leprosarium near Baton Rouge were marked with numbers, not names, for example.
I remember being at this hospital with my sister when I was very small. She was born with a disabled hip and was sent there for treatment thru the state. If I am not mistaken, the Crippled Children’s Clinic was associated with this treatment.
I remember how grand the entrance seemed since I was so small and I remember seeing a woman walking around with a doll singing to It. At the time I did not understand.
So, my question is:
We’re children or eve adults with disabilities who relied on assistance from agencies treated as outpatients there often?
I used to be here this place messed me up bad y’all
interested in understanding the 30’s -60’s .. a family member was there . need more information..
I’d like to help you, but this is one of the subjects where I posted all that I know about it.
This place is horrible several people raped there including my 18 year old son develop mentally disabled.
I did volunteer work at this institution as part of my schooling at SEMO in the early 1970s. We travelled by bus one evening each week to visit the patients there. I was alarmed to see people whose only issues were depression or alcoholism being locked away indefinitely, living alongside those with profound mental retardation, severe Down Syndrome, and brain damage.
My mother visited with same program as you and was traumatized by the experience.
Is there anyway to find out anything about my grandmother that was there from probably 1936 to her death in 1943. We think she may have had postpartum depression. Died of TB while there.
There may be, but I wouldn’t know where to start. Good luck.
In doing genealogy I discovered my great grandfather was an inmate at the hospital and died there in 1927. Also, two of his sons died and were buried there . One in 1941 and the other in 1947. This feels pretty grim. I m returning to Cape in April/2022 and plan to visit the hospital grounds.
My great grandfather was a inmate at the Anna Hosptal and died there. His son (my grandfather’s brother) died there in 1948. I just visited the hospital in June, 2022. It was late in the evening and I couldn’t find the cemetary. I plan to go back soon.
Go north on N. Meadow Lane from the hospital. You’ll run into it on both sides of the road.
Just learned my great grandfather died in the asylum in 1905. From older family members who recall, he was there for several years prior to his death. He’s buried in our family cemetery but trying to find patient records on WHY he was committed. No one in the family seems to know why?
I saw that patient records my be available, housed, by state of Illinois and you can request them. If anyone knows another way to find such records please post.