Moose Lake State Hospital

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Moose Lake State Hospital
Moose Lake State Hospital
Established 1935
Construction Began 1936
Opened 1938
Closed 1995 (as psychiatric facility)
Current Status Active
Building Style Rambling Plan
Location Moose Lake, MN
Peak Patient Population 1,290 in 1955
Alternate Names
  • Fourth State Hospital for the Insane
  • Minnesota Correctional Facility/Moose Lake(current)


In 1935 the Minnesota legislature established a commission of five members appointed by the governor to locate a fourth state hospital in the northeastern section of the state (Laws 1935 c383). The commission selected land adjacent to the village of Moose Lake in Carlton County. The legislature, at its special session of 1935-1936, confirmed the location and directed the State Board of Control to purchase the land and proceed with construction of building (Laws Ex. Sess. 1935, c5, sl-12).

Construction began in November 1936, and the hospital accepted its first patients, transfers from the Fergus Falls and St. Peter state hospitals, on May 2, 1938. The formal opening was held on June 11. The first patients directly admitted from the probate courts arrived at the hospital on August 15, 1938. In 1949 two buildings for male and female geriatric patients and a combination auditorium, library, and occupational therapy building were constructed.

Moose Lake State Hospital, the fourth hospital for the insane in Minnesota, was built as a public works administration project in 1936-1938. Massive brick buildings created a rather somber interpretation of the Colonial Revival style which was certainly affected by the Depression. The hospital was designed to be an independent community, with administration, medical center, receiving wards for men and women, kitchen, bakery, laundry, powerhouse and sewage disposal units, four dormitories for patients, a nurses’ home, and a superintendent’s residence. Early treatments used at the hospital included insulin and electroshock, hydrotherapy, and physiotherapy. In the 1950s lobotomies were used on some patients. In 1959, when the Sandstone State Hospital closed, its alcoholic program was transferred to Moose Lake. By 1961, treatment of alcoholism was a specialization of Moose Lake. In 1966 a program for adolescents was begun, in which some of the participants attended public school and gained high school credits. Also in 1966 all of the hospital’s medical/surgical wards were closed. In 1972 the hospital began a long term chemical dependency program and in 1984 implemented a collaborative inpatient/outpatient chemical dependency program in conjunction with the Northland Mental Health Center in Grand Rapids.

With the closing of the Rochester State Hospital in 1982, Moose Lake received fifty patients, and began development of a specialized geriatric (psycho-geriatric) program. By the 1980s the hospital had four active programs serving either all of or parts of thirteen counties: St. Louis, Cook, Lake, Koochiching, Itasca, Ramsey, Washington, Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, and Pine. The four programs were mental retardation service, which served only St. Louis, Carlton, Cook, and Lake counties; chemical dependency service, which served all thirteen counties; mental illness service, which served all thirteen counties except Ramsey and Washington; and psycho-geriatric service, which provided service statewide.

The hospital closed as a psychiatric facility in 1995. It has since been owned and operated by the Minnesota Department of Corrections and is now called the Minnesota Correctional Facility - Moose Lake. Since becoming a prison, two living units and an industry building have been added to the campus, and the facility maintains a small treatment unit for drug/alcohol problems, as well as a sex offender treatment program. There are currently around 1000 inmates incarcerated at MCF-Moose Lake.