Lakin State Hospital

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Lakin State Hospital
Established 1919
Opened 1926
Closed late 1970s
Demolished Partially
Current Status Closed
Building Style Rambling Plan
Location Lakin, WV
Peak Patient Population 502 (1960 pop.)
Alternate Names
  • Lakin State Hospital for the Colored Insane
  • Lakin Hospital (1970)
  • Lakin Hospital Nursing Home


Founded by an act of the West Virginia Legislature in 1919, Lakin Hospital opened its doors on Feb. 1, 1926, with a purpose of, “the reception and treatment of blacks suffering from mental and nervous disorders.” The Lakin State Hospital was created under the same legislation proposed by T.G. Nutter, Harry Capehart and T.J. Coleman, three African American legislators that created several state-funded reform institutions for African Americans between 1919 and 1921, that also created the Lakin Industrial Home for Colored Boys across WV 62 from the hospital. The hospital, then named the ‘Lakin State Hospital for the Colored Insane,’ served patients from across the state. Although the institution’s original name reflected the era of segregation, it was a nontraditional facility with an all black staff, including administrators, and was one of what is believed to be only two all black mental health facilities east of the Mississippi River.

In 1950, Lakin was visited along with the Huntington State Hospital and Spencer State Hospital by Dr. William Freeman, sometimes called the "Father of the American Lobotomy". During July and early August Dr. Freeman performed 228 lobotomies on patients at those facilities, including twenty 'very dangerous Negroes' at Lakin.[1]

In 1954, Lakin State Hospital began the process of integrating it's staff and patient population. It also assumed the duty of district hospital for Jackson, Mason, Putnam, and Wood counties in West Virginia. In 1960 the facilities consisted of two three story main buildings (separated by gender), a two story office building, cannery, a new office/dietary complex constructed in 1959, two staff dormitories, physician housing, and a short term treatment medical center. Along with those buildings, there were six older buildings that had been renovated structures serving as laundry, workshops, and recreation hall. By 1960 psychosurgical procedures were no longer practiced, replaced by group and recreational therapy and psychotherapy.[2] However, the hospital did still offer electro-convulsive therapy and insulin coma therapy.[3]

It's use as a mental hospital persisted into the late 1970s, until the State of West Virginia de-institutionalized mental healthcare. [4] Today the former Lakin State Hospital property is still owned by the Department of Health the Lakin Nursing Home, while many of the older buildings constructed by the state have now been demolished. One of the hospital’s oldest existing buildings is the Office Building which remains on the grounds though it is only used for storage by the nearby Lakin Correctional Facility for Woman. The Office Building, erected around the late-1950’s is said to have housed not only offices but been a place for major and minor surgery and private pay patients. The Dietary Building which sits behind the Office Building was erected in 1958 and is still in use.[5]

Confusion with the Industrial Home for Colored Boys[edit]

In modern times, the state hospital is frequently confused with the Lakin Industrial Home for Colored Boys. Proximity and similar names mean casual observers often mistook the abandoned Industrial Home building for being the state hospital. Matters are not helped since after the School's closing in 1955 the State Hospital took over the grounds in 1957, using the structures as employee housing, post office, and gymnasium.[6]

Known Staff[edit]

Dr. M. Mitchell Bateman, MD: Superintendent, ???-1960
Dr. Kathryn A. Rainbow, MD: Superintendent, 1961-???
Mr. G.E. Chamberlain, jr: Business Manager, ???-1960
Mr. Lenzy G. Austin: Business Manager, 1961-???
Dr. Luther D. Robinson, MD: Staff physician, 1947-1949



  1. Brief history of Lakin
  2. Meyers, J. Howard, ed. "West Virginia Bluebook" 44th ed. Charleston: Jarrett Printing Company, 1960. Print.
  3. Meyers, J. Howard, ed. "West Virginia Bluebook" 45th ed. Charleston: Jarrett Printing Company, 1961. Print.
  4. WV Encyclopedia Entry
  6. Meyers, J. Howard, ed. "West Virginia Bluebook" 45th ed. Charleston: Jarrett Printing Company, 1961. Print.