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Dixmont State Hospital
The Western Pennsylvania Hospital was founded in Pittsburgh in 1848 as a general hospital that treated all types of illnesses and became the first institution in western Pennsylvania to offer treatment for the insane. When the Insane Department of the Western Pennsylvania Hospital was moved to a new building in Kilbuck Township outside of Pittsburgh in 1862 it was renamed the Western Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane at Dixmont to honor the memory of Dorothea Dix, an advocate for reforming the treatment of mental patients. The Dixmont Hospital was legally separated from the Western Pennsylvania Hospital in 1907 when it was individually incorporated as the Dixmont Hospital for the Insane. Supported by private contributions since 1852, it was primarily state appropriations that enabled the hospital to expand its facilities and care for an increasing number of mentally ill persons over the first nine decades of its existence. Despite receiving state appropriations, it nonetheless continued to operate as a private corporation until 1945 when it was taken over by the Department of Public Welfare. From that date, it operated under the name Dixmont State Hospital until it closed in July 1984.
The Western Pennsylvania Hospital was one of the earlier asylums built on the Kirkbride plan, with three crooked wings stretching to each side of administration; one wing for male and the other for female patients. By the end of the 1800's, the resident population grew to over 1,200 and a nursing school was established in 1895. As with most asylums, Dixmont became overcrowded to the point that it was not accepting new admissions. During the Great Depression, the hospital tried to sustain itself by paying employees only with room and board, not salaries, and sold any crafts made by patients for extra income. By 1946, the state had to step in, and the institution became known as Dixmont State Hospital. Click here for more...