Augusta State Hospital
Mrs. Catherine Winslow, the first woman employed at the Maine Insane Hospital, was appointed matron when the asylum opened in 1840. The asylum was the product of a collaborative effort between the state and two private citizens, Reuel Williams of Augusta (married to Sarah Cony) and Benjamin Brown of Vassalborough. While early mental health institutions may fall far short of present-day standards for treatment for mental illness, the establishment of such places in the early nineteenth century was based, in part, on reforming care for the mentally ill.
Prior to mental health hospitals, the mentally ill were the responsibility of their families, and if their families could not cope, they were either put in poor houses, put out on the streets, or locked away in jail. Mental health reformer Dorothea Dix (1802-1887), a native of Hampden, Maine, worked closely with the second superintendent of the Augusta asylum, Issac Ray (appointed in 1841). The building was state-of-the-art when constructed. All parts had ventilation, lighting, heating, and water. Men and women had separate wings.
Over its 162 years of service, the hospital has carried a number of names and today it is called the Augusta Mental Health Institute. Many buildings on the campus now serve as state offices. A new hospital,Riverview Psychiatric Center, was opened in 2004 to replace the facility. Click here for more...