Columbus State Hospital

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Columbus State Hospital
Columbus State Hospital
Construction Began 1835/ Rebuilt 1870
Opened 1838/ Reopened 1877
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Kirkbride Plan
Alternate Names Ohio Lunatic Asylum Central Ohio Psychiatric Hospital


The "Lunatic Asylum of Ohio" was organized by Act of the Thirty-fourth General Assembly, passed March 5, 1835, and Samuel Parsons, William M. Awl and Samuel F. Maccracken were appointed directors. These Directors selected a tract of land about one mile east and north of the State House, in Columbus, comprising thirty acres. This tract fronted south on what is now East Broad street, and the western boundary was near what is now Washington avenue. During the next three years they erected a building on these grounds, at a cost of about sixty-one thousand ($61,000) dollars. The institution accommodated one hundred and twenty patients, and was the first institution for the treatment of the insane organized west of the Alleghenies. On May 21, 1838, William M. Awl, M. D., of Columbus, was elected Medical Superintendent by the Trustees, and the first patient was received on November 30 of that year.

The building was two hundred and ninety-five feet in length and contained one hundred and fifty-three single rooms. The Directors apologized for the apparently extravagant size by saying that it would be required in a few years. Yet it was the only asylum the state then had. Now—1900-1—the state has accommodations for more than seven thousand five hundred patients in the several "State Hospitals" at Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Longview, Massillon and Toledo, and every institution is crowded to its full capacity. Dr. Awl was in charge as Superintendent until 1850, a period of twelve years, when he was succeeded by Samuel H. Smith, M. D. He was succeeded in 1852 by E. Kendrick, M. D., and he by George E. Eels, M. D., in June 1854. On August 1, 1855, Dr. Richard Gundry, who later became so prominent in the care of the insane in Ohio and the United States, was appointed Assistant Physician. In July, 1856, Dr. R. Hills, of Delaware, was appointed Superintendent. He held the position for several years, and was succeeded by Dr. William L. Peck.

On the evening of November 18, 1868, the asylum caught fire and was almost completely destroyed. There were three hundred and fourteen patients in the asylum, and six were suffocated by the smoke before they could be rescued. The others were removed to the the asylums at Cleveland, Dayton, and Cincinnati, which had been built since this one was organized. On April 23, 1869, an Act was passed by the Legislature authorizing the re-building of the asylum on the old grounds, and contracts were let September 23, 1869, and work was begun on the foundation October 24, of that year. Winter soon stopped the work, however, and during the ensuing session of the Legislature, on the 18th of April, 1870, a bill was passed authorizing the sale of the old tract and the purchase of a new site to contain three hundred acres of land. Governor R. B. Hayes, State Treasurer S. S. Warner, and Attorney General F. B. Pond were appointed a Commission to sell the old site and to purchase a new one. They were required to sell the old site at a price not less than $200,000, and to purchase a new site of not less than three hundred acres at a cost not to exceed $100,000. The Commission reported in favor of the purchase of three hundred acres from William S. Sullivant, on the high lands west of Columbus and across the Scioto valley, paying therefore two hundred and fifty dollars per acre. The Trustees took charge of this tract, which is the present site of the Hospital, on May 5, 1870. The site of the building was determined upon, work was begun under the old contracts, which had been transferred to the new site, and the corner-stone was laid on July 4 of that year. The institution was finally completed on July 4, 1877, just seven years from the laying of the corneer-stone on July 4, 1870. The total cost of construction at the time of the opening was $1,520,980.45—at the time of writing (1901) the cost of construction has exceeded $2,000,000.

The first patient was admitted into the new Hospital on August 23, 1877, and this patient is still an inmate of the Institution, twenty-years later. The Hospital, as completed, stands on an elevated plateau about three miles west of High street, on the north side of Broad street, facing almost directly east. It consists of a central Administration Building and two wings, of four sections each, and a rear wing. The lateral wings and the Administration Building have a lineal frontage of about 1200 feet, and the rear wing and Administration Building have a depth of about 800 feet. It is nearly all four stories in height, and the distance around the foundation walls is about one and one-quarter miles. The building when opened, accommodated eight hundred and fifty-two patients. In the wings for the patients there were four hundred single rooms and one hundred and sixteen associated dormitories for the us of patients. There were twenty-eight wards from 120 to 180 feet in length, and each ward contained bath, lavatory, water-closet, clothing room and two rooms for attendants.[1]

The hospital remained in service until the late 1980s, despite falling into severe disrepair. It was demolished in 1997 and new Ohio Department of Transportation and Ohio Department of Public Safety facilities were built near its former location. Four patient cemeteries of the Columbus State Hospital still exist.

Images of Columbus State Hospital

Main Image Gallery: Columbus State Hospital