New Castle State Developmental Center

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New Castle State Developmental Center
Established 1905
Construction Began 1906
Opened 1907
Closed 1998
Demolished 2001
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location New Castle, IN
Peak Patient Population 1,100 in 1952
Alternate Names
  • Indiana Village for Epileptics
  • New Castle State Hospital


Opened to create better conditions for epileptics that were in prisons and state hospitals in Indiana. State laws regarding eugenics was carried out at the facility almost immediately. New Castle was chosen mainly because of the price of the land at $100 an acre. By the end of the institution’s first year, a total of 84 men were admitted, with 61 percent from other institutions, mostly county poor asylums or jails, and 38 percent with no previous institutional experience. Two additional structures were completed in April 1908 and construction on the custodial building was finished in December 1908. These buildings increased the capacity of the Village to 116 men. Three additional cottages were completed in 1911, allowing for a total of 186 patients. Patients worked on the farm and grew much of the food for the Village, making it nearly self-sustaining at the beginning. The population grew from 82 male patients in 1908 to 337 males in 1917. In 1922 the colony started construction on buildings for women. Over the course of three years, twelve buildings were constructed to hold 220 female patients, bringing the total population to 701. It was about this time patient abuse became public.

With the 1930s the colony built a school so children patients were able to get an education. A new infirmary building was constructed in 1938 as part of the WPA project, it opened in 1940 and was able to house around one hundred patients. Also allegations of patient abuse were at the lowest in many years.

By 1950 it was the only colony left and changed it's name in 1955. Dr. Van Nuys retired in 1952, he had been running the facility since it's opening in 1907. In the early 1960s it changed it's housing to accept developmentally disabled. Focus shifted from long-term patient care to short-term rehabilitation and integration back into society. The facility no longer treated only epileptics; mentally handicapped patients became the focus. Farming operations ceased in 1969 and patient numbers dropped dramatically in the 1970s. Two sets of colony buildings closed in the 1980s. The buildings were demolished and the land turned over to the Department of Natural Resources. In 1985, the name changed again to the New Castle State Developmental Center. The population continued to shrink and quality of patient care was questioned by the state. The institution closed on August 15, 1998, with the remaining patients moved to other facilities. The land currently houses a correctional facility.


Main Image Gallery: New Castle State Developmental Center


In 1997, WISH-TV secretly filmed resident abuse by employees inside New Castle State Developmental Center in New Castle, Indiana. Channel 8, the Indianapolis station affiliated with CBS, broadcast their footage as part of a series of seven investigative reports aired between May 5 and May 13, 1997. It is included in the Indiana Disability History Project collection with permission of the station.