Milwaukee Sanitarium

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Milwaukee Sanitarium
Established 1884
Opened 1885
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Wauwatosa, WI
Alternate Names
  • Aurora Psychiatric Hospital
  • Milwaukee Psychiatric Hospital


Milwaukee Psychiatric Hospital was founded in Wauwatosa in 1884 and was originally named Milwaukee Sanitarium for the treatment of nervous disorders. Its first site was a farmhouse on a 15-acre site. Shortly thereafter, a three-story structure was constructed and other buildings added to comprise what is today 36 acres in a natural hilly and wooded setting with a combination of both historic and modern buildings.

Throughout its history, the hospital has operated as a private (non-governmental) institution and has been a pioneer in many innovative services in the field of mental health (hydro-therapy, in-service training programs for attendants, cottage residences).

Its founder, Dr. James McBride, built the hospital upon the firm belief that open air and open country were the best medicine for mental health. At that time, these were among the few options available for mentally ill patients. He put his theories into practice on a 38-acre tract along the Menomonee River. Dr. McBride’s vision was further expanded by Dr. Richard Dewey, who introduced a revolutionary idea. Dewey’s idea, called the Cottage System, was first put into place here. It soon changed the face of mental health care across the U.S. Before long, patients from around the country were arriving to take advantage of a distinctive style of care.

As years went by and needs changed, the campus responded. Once run on a for-profit basis, the facility became a non-profit organization in 1954 and changed its name to Milwaukee Psychiatric Hospital in 1964. The Kradwell School was established in 1963. It began as a full-service educational institution for patients. It then expanded its scope beyond the campus to meet the special programming needs of school systems throughout Southeastern Wisconsin . In 1993, Milwaukee Psychiatric Hospital affiliated with Aurora Health Care. Today, it is one of the leading centers for behavioral health services in Wisconsin.