Crownsville State Hospital

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Crownsville State Hospital
Established April 11, 1910
Opened March 13, 1911
Closed July 2004
Current Status Closed
Building Style Cottage Plan
Architect(s) Baldwin & Pennington/Henry Powell Hopkins
Location Crownsville, MD
Peak Patient Population 2,710 in 1955
Alternate Names
  • Hospital for the Negro Insane of Maryland

CrownsvilleSH 03 1915.jpg


The hospital for the negro insane of Maryland, now known as the Crownsville State Hospital, was created by an act of the General Assembly on April 11, 1910, which made an appropriation of $100,000 for the purchase of land and the erection of buildings. Sections of the act creating the hospital, Chapter 250, Laws of Maryland, 1910, provided that there should be established in the State of Maryland an institution for the detention and care of the negro insane of the state. It was expressly provided that the hospital should not be located in Baltimore City.

It was further provided that the Board of Managers of the hospital was to consist of the Governor, ex-officio; State Treasurer, Comptroller of the Treasury, and six other persons, to constitute a body corporate under the title of the " Hospital for the Negro Insane of Maryland," with the power to appoint the necessary officers and agents. The act named the following persons, who, together with the Governor, State Comptroller and State Treasurer, were to constitute the first Board of Managers of the hospital: Hugh H. Young and Thomas Parran, to serve from the date of the passage of the act until the first of May, 1912; John T. Daily and William L. Marbury, to serve until the first day of May, 1914; J. Harry Covington and Henry P. Mann, to serve until the first day of May, 1916. It was provided that the Board of Managers should be divided into three classes, one-third of whom should go out of office every two years; and the Governor should have power, in case of any vacancy occurring, to appoint a person or persons to fill such vacancy or vacancies for the balance of term of said class. It was further enacted by the General Assembly of Maryland "that the Board of Managers immediately proceed to the erection, construction and equipment of suitable buildings to care for such of the negro insane of the State of Maryland as may be sent to the said hospital from time to time, in accordance with the general provisions of the acts of the General Assembly of Maryland relative to the care and treatment of the insane of the state."

On December 13, 1910, the board by formal resolution purchased the Boswell-Garrett-Hatch farm, located at Crownsville, Anne Arundel County, comprising 566 acres of land, with all improvements thereon, for the sum of $19,000. The title to the property having been examined by the Title Guarantee and Trust Company of Baltimore and found correct, the deed was transferred to the State of Maryland on May 22, 1911. The Board of Managers organizing on May 15, 1910, elected their respective officers and adopted by-laws. At the meeting of the Board of Managers of May 23, 1910, Dr. Robert P. Winterode was appointed superintendent.

With the two-fold purpose in view of relieving the county homes of their charges at the earliest possible date, also of economizing in every way by utilizing the patients' labor to grade, cut poles and cross ties for the railway spur, excavate for the buildings, harvest the willow crop and commence the necessary farming operations, the idea of housing patients in temporary quarters suggested itself. Active work was commenced immediately to convert the building formerly used as a willow plant into temporary quarters and prepare for the first transfer of patients. After a month's work, everything being in readiness, the first allotment of 12 patients from Spring Grove State Hospital was received on March 13, 1911. The temporary character of the camp necessitated the reception of only quiet and good workers. On March 18, 1911, four more were added, and on March 21, 1911, this number was increased to 21. From this group three patients were selected to assist the cook and wait in dining rooms of patients and officers. Two were assigned to work with the farm manager. The remainder commenced harvesting the willow crop. Patients worked with vim and their enthusiasm increased in proportion to the results shown, and after six weeks the entire " holt " was cut, bundled and stripped for market.

The increasing demand for workers, combined with the excellent results so far obtained with the small colony, was sufficient to justify an increase in the population. The next quota of 16 patients was selected from Montevue Asylum at Frederick, and was transferred on July 21, 1911. These patients were assigned to work in the woods, cutting cross ties for the spur, also poles for the conveying of electric current for lighting the building. As was to be expected, the work was crude and slow in the beginning, but with teaching, the type and quality of the work increased in efficiency until, when six weeks had elapsed, 750 cross ties were counted to their credit; also 20 poles, 35 feet long. To accomplish this work required the felling of 200 or more trees and with inexperienced woodmen it was almost phenomenal that no accidents resulted. By this time the work on the farm had increased to such an extent as to occupy all of the labor and in order to assist in the excavating and construction of new buildings it was deemed expedient to increase the number. Accordingly on October 13, 1911, 32 patients were brought from Montevue Asylum, Frederick. This group included quite a number of epileptics and imbeciles of low grade; 80 per cent of the entire number had never been occupied. On October 21, 1911, two patients were transferred from Sylvan Retreat; on September 15, 1911, one patient was transferred from the county home in Talbot County; on June 2 another was transferred from Charles County. All these transfers were made without a single mishap.

The destruction of the construction camp by fire on the night of March 7, 1912, came at a time when the results of the first year's labor had just become apparent. To thus, in a few minutes, find themselves thrown back to the point of starting was a painful and discouraging experience to the officers of the hospital. The only available protection providing roof and shelter for the patients to be found was a mile and a half distant in barns, where, with meager facilities, the patients were made reasonably comfortable for the night. The buildings which afforded shelter for 10 days thereafter were shacks formerly used by the contractor while excavating for the foundation. With the necessary repairs, they were ready for occupancy in 24 hours.

Construction of more permanent quarters was commenced immediately, and at the expiration of 14 days the first dormitory was occupied. Meals were brought over from the shacks for a few days until the kitchen was completed. In the absence of an immediate water supply, a temporary line of pipe was laid from the tank already constructed to supply water for building purposes. This building, which has been converted into a farm colony, was the home of the patients during the construction of the first permanent building. A one-story layout comprised dormitories for quiet and disturbed cases, and there were separate rooms for isolation purposes, also dining rooms to accommodate 10o or more patients. Included in this building was a room fitted up with shower baths for patients, also clothes room and quarters for laundry help. The attendants occupied a separate building connected by a short passage-way. This included a dining room and bath and sleeping accommodations. The office, dining room and bedroom of the superintendent completed the layout. As the demands for patients' labor on the new buildings were increasing daily and the present quarters had been taxed to their capacity, it was deemed advisable to add another dormitory to accommodate 50 additional patients.

On April 17, 1911, just one month and ten days after the fire, 19 men remaining at Spring Grove were transferred to the new hospital. On May 22, 18 Baltimore City patients were brought from Bay View. This number, on June 8, was increased by the transfer of 22 patients from Montevue. During the year new admissions were made from the counties, until the number under treatment at the close of the fiscal year 1912 reached 124. No more transfers were made until May 13, 1913, when 78 women and 18 men were brought from Montevue. The census of the population on September 30, 1913, was 255. Of this number 165 are men and 90 are women.

The first unit of the group, known as the Reception Building, on which work was commenced in October, 1912, was occupied on May 1, 1913. It consists of a central building of four stories and two wings with three stories, extending almost at right angles from the central portion. On the first floor are located hydrotherapy wards for both men and women. These sections, being equipped for prolonged baths, will afford modern facilities for treating patients. A large area of this space in each wing is occupied by the laundry, which is divided into two rooms, one being equipped for washing and the other for ironing. The washers, extractors and conveyor are operated by electricity with separate drum control, so that any one of them may be operated separately. The extractors are fitted with safety covers as a safeguard against accidents. The ironing is done by electric irons. Conduits for increased accommodations were also provided before laying the floor, so that additional facilities may be readily added. The remaining space of this floor is taken up with store rooms. dining rooms for both patients and attendants and heating plant. The second and third floors of the wings are devoted to day rooms and dormitories. The front of the first floor proper of the main building contains the administration offices, reception room for patients, clinical laboratory, pharmacy and offices for the staff. In the rear of this floor is a dining room for women, as well as a kitchen. The entire floor will be used for patients as soon as the central kitchen and administration buildings are completed, where accommodations for patients and officers have been provided. The second floor front of the main building is occupied by physicians. The two rooms in the rear are used temporarily for day room and sewing room. This entire space will later be converted into an infirmary. By these changes it will be possible to accommodate about 50 additional patients. The third floor of the central building is taken up with rooms for men and women nurses. The building is lighted by electricity and abundantly supplied with shower baths, toilets and washstands. The plumbing is modern in every detail.

The second building of the group, which is designated as the administration building, was completed in November, 1913. This building is of brick construction, three and one-half stories in height. On the first floor is a mortuary, post-mortem room, museum and storeroom. Offices of the staff and head nurse, laboratories, pharmacy, examination, reception and dining rooms for the officers occupy the first floor proper. Sleeping accommodations for the staff occupy the second floor. The third floor contains several rooms for employees. Between the reception building and the administration building, and connected with both by covered corridors, is the third unit, known as the Central Kitchen Building. On the ground floor will be the bakery, storage rooms for flour, preparation rooms for vegetables, cold storage and two large industrial rooms. The first floor is taken up with a central kitchen, sculleries, separate dining rooms for attendants, also for men and women patients ; the latter accommodating about 250 each. The second floor has two dormitories, each accommodating about 50 beds. The central portion of the building is utilized for a day room, also assembly hall for entertainments and religious services. The attic space is fitted up for sleeping quarters for help. The passage-ways connecting these buildings not only afford a means of easy access in unpleasant weather and at night, but, fully as important, serve as a cover for all pipes— heating and water supply—and conduits for electric wiring, which, in case of emergency, may be repaired without constantly digging and destroying property.

In the construction of buildings, operation of farm and preliminary construction work, patients' labor has been utilized in every possible way. Work therapy, aside from a remunerative consideration, has proven a most valuable asset from a curative standpoint. Those patients capable of being developed along different lines have been trained in the industrial shop, where willow-craft work, rug weaving, lathe turning and broom making are carried on extensively. The occupation of the women, though in different fields, has been given as much attention, with as encouraging results. All clothes worn by women, even the stockings, are made by them. There is also excellent work done by the ward classes, such as rug making, knitting, crocheting, cross-stitch work and quilting. The above does not include a large percentage of cases which are occupied in the laundry and general housework, and during the summer 30 or more work in the gardens. The system of occupation has developed pari passu with the growth of the hospital.[1]


  • The Governor, ex-officio.
  • State Treasurer, ex-officio.
  • Comptroller of the Treasury, ex-officio.
  • Harry. J. Hopkins. John T. Daily.
  • William L. Marbury. William P. Gundry.
  • Henry P. Mann. Hugh H. Young, M. D.


  • Dr. Robert P. Winterode 1910-in office


  • Dr. A. M. Cross 1913-1914
  • Dr. P. L. Keough 1913-1914
  • Dr. L. D. Barnes 1914-in office
  • Dr. Albert A. Nauman 1915-in office


  • Dr. Nolan D. C. Lewis 1915-in office

By 1948 the hospital had approximately 1,800 patients. Patient population peaked in 1955 with 2,710 and was integrated by 1962. After serving the state psychiatric inpatient population for over ninety years, Crownsville Hospital Center closed on June 30, 2004. Two hundred patients were transferred to Spring Grove and Springfield Hospitals, and clinical staff was transferred with them. Currently, there is a skeleton crew at Crownsville to maintain the buildings and provide security. An environmental firm is investigating the land to determine if chemicals are buried there. Anne Arundel County is being offered the land for free as it has the first right of refusal before the state offers it to others.

The MHA budget for Crownsville for fiscal year 2006 is now $1.6 million, down from $27 million in fiscal year 2005. Four million of these savings will be available annually for a five county collaboration (Anne Arundel, Prince George’s, Charles, Calvert, and St. Mary’s) to provide community services. These services will include in-home support services for children and adolescents to maintain them in their communities and the development of Assertive Community Treatment models for adults with persistent and serious mental illness. The rest of the savings will be used to reduce the state budget deficit for the Mental Hygiene Administration.

For many employees, the transition period was a sad time as many had worked there for years. Sheilah Davenport, Crownsville’s Acting CEO since March of 2003, acknowledged that Crownsville staff were like family, with some employees having had parents who worked there before them. Paul Lurz, Director of Performance Improvement, retired after working there for 40 years. He regrets that Crownsville has closed, noting that its history was marked by a commitment to patients’ rights beginning with its inception in l912 to serve the African American population needing psychiatric care. In the l950s, Crownsville’s Superintendent, Dr. Morgenstern, refused to allow lobotomies, and he was the first director to hire African American staff. In the l960s, Charles Ward, the superintendent at that time, released African Americans who were hospitalized simply because they were demonstrating for civil rights, sending a letter to the papers denouncing their hospitalizations. Paul Lurz also describes Crownsville as being the hospital known for its reluctance to put patients on the streets without post hospital arrangements.

According to CEO Sheilah Davenport, the first inquiry into closing a state hospital occurred in December 2002 when a State Legislative Analyst recommended closure to help resolve the State’s budget deficit. Legislators asked the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) to choose one to close and withheld $2 million from the their budget until a final report was presented to the Legislature. The recommendation was to close a facility which would have the least impact on patients, their families, and staff while ensuring that all state beds would be maintained within the system. The recommendation was to close Crownsville-- it was the smallest hospital, and its patients could be more easily transferred to the two larger facilities, keeping the number of beds intact.

In October 2003, Nelson Sabatini, Secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, went to Crownsville to inform staff that their hospital was being considered for closure and to reassure them the Department would ensure a smooth transition and attempt, to the best of its ability, to find placements for staff. For the next several months, staff awaited a final decision by the legislature. CEO Sheilah Davenport met on a regular basis with staff to keep them informed and the CEOs of the three hospitals held ongoing meetings to determine where and when to transfer patients and staff with the least disruptions to continuity of care. The decision was made to move the Adolescent and Geriatric units to Spring Grove as this location was more accessible to families while the long term unit went to Springfield as the impact on families was less for this patient group. The Intermediate Unit and the Forensic Admissions Unit went to Spring Grove while the Civil Admissions Unit went to Springfield. Staff placement notifications were made in February, followed by patients and families being informed in April of their transfer location. Everyone was reassured that staff on the unit was accompanying the patients being transferred from those units and further reassurances were given by providing tours of the other hospitals for staff and patients.

Despite these efforts, some staff continued to be anxious about their duties at the new hospital while others were pleased with how the transition was handled. Ms. Davenport acknowledged that this was a difficult time for Crownsville staff and complimented them on their dedication to their patients during and after the transition. Currently, most staff has remained in their new positions though some are still adjusting to their new environments at Springfield and Spring Grove.

Images of Crownsville State Hospital[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Crownsville State Hospital


From a Washington Post story, Sept. 16, 2004:
A forlorn cemetery where the weatherworn tombstones lie flat and bear numbers instead of names was dedicated last week as a sanctuary that state officials vowed to preserve. Nelson J. Sabatini, the Maryland Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene, on Friday said the hundreds of people buried at Crownsville Hospital Center would not be forgotten, even if their identities won't ever be known. Founded in 1910 as the Hospital for the Negro Insane, the hospital interred its patients during the early part of the century on a rolling hill on the grounds. But often it didn't mark their names on the tombstones.

No one is entirely sure why the dead were buried anonymously. Some officials thought perhaps the numbers on the tombstones corresponded to those on long-lost patient files. Others, including local historian Janice Hayes-Williams, thought family members did not want it known they had relatives who were mentally ill.

Backed by a team of volunteers, Williams has spent months going through death records, trying to record the names of the people who died at Crownsville. "Who were these people?" she said earlier this year. "Where did they come from? That's what we're trying to find out." The legislature, lobbied by Hayes-Williams and others, passed a bill to preserve the cemetery. On Friday, a plaque commemorating those who are buried at Crownsville was unveiled at the site. And, in an interview this week, Sabatini said there is a "commitment to preserve and treat this place with dignity and respect."

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