Richland County Chronic Asylum

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Richland County Chronic Asylum
Established 1878
Opened 1878/1895
Closed 1963
Demolished 1976
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Single Building
Location Richland Center, WI
Alternate Names


In 1895 the superintendents of the poor purchased a tract of land, which was located in the northwest quarter of section 36 and the northeast quarter of section 35 in the Town of Bloom, containing 200 acres. The price paid was $5,000.00 of which amount $1,000.00 was paid down and the balance was to be made in two equal payments, in one and two years. Mr. Robert N. McKay was appointed the first overseer, thus becoming the first administrator of the institution, as we know it today. He was hired at a salary of $500.00 per year.

By 1879, there were 19 inmates in the county poor house. Of these were five insane, five indigents, and nine orphans. The total cost of running the farm and poorhouse was $1879.60 and products were valued at $1557.27. The average cost per person came to about $0.88 per week. The big house at the Poor Farm served both as “Poor House” and “Insane Asylum.”

The asylum below Richland Center was built, however, the Bloom City property was still in use, as least for a Poor Farm. New buildings were erected in 1895 upon a tract of land, which had been purchased by the County about 2 ½ miles south of Richland center on sections 34 and 35 of the town of Richland. The County’s patients occupied the new buildings. In a book entitled “History of Richland Center” (1906), the building was described. “The main building is indeed a handsome structure, of red brick and cut stone, two and one-half stories above the basement, covering a ground area of 38 by 100 feet and is designed to answer the needs of the county for many years to come.” November that year, The county insane asylum was completed and accepted by the State Board of Controls. “The building as a whole is one of architectural beauty, substantial of construction, conveniently arranged and furnished and complete in every way pertaining to comfort and economy.”

Twenty-three inmates were in the alms department of the institution and 123 patients in the asylum in 1905. In 1929 the County Board in special session appropriated $25,000.00 for new building, to be erected south and west of the county asylum, which gave it an approach to it by the road through the asylum grounds. The following year West Home was built and ready for use, following the fire. With its completion the institution then had three separate operations: General Hospital, County Farm, and County Home for the Aged. The Hospital had a capacity for 154 patients and the county Home approximately 38. It was pronounced one of the finest, if not the best, in the state. There are 17 inmates who will be moved to the new home from the County Asylum where they have been housed since the fire.

In 1963 the State Board of Control declared the insane asylum no longer fit for patient occupancy. A decision was reached by the County Board of Supervisors to close the County Asylum, built in 1897. Patients who were from other counties along with many of those who were Richland County residents were transferred to other facilities through out the state. Those remaining were moved to the west building, which was built in 1929. [1]