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East Louisiana State Hospital
An act of the legislative session of 1847 established "The Insane Asylum of the State of Louisiana" in Jackson and provided, among other things, for the construction of the Asylum's physical plant. The Asylum's Board of Administrators appointed an architect, a Mr. Gibbens. to draw up the plans. He was specifically told not to design something that would look like a prison. Gibbens came up with the design of the Center Building with its wings. The Board of Administrators purchased a 250-acre tract known as "Flowery Hill" a short distance from the business section of Jackson, separated from the town by a small stream.
On July 5, 1847, Robert Perry signed a contract with the Board for the building of the Asylum, and President David Shattuck of Centenary College signed as security for Perry. The Board requested that the West Wing be completed by December 1, 1847, but there were delays due to bad weather and the building was not ready for occupancy until the fall of 1848. The East Wing was not finished until 1849. Center Building was ready for use in 1854, but it was never completed according to Gibbens' plans. The rear of the building was to have extended another hundred feet and to have contained a central kitchen, storerooms, and other facilities. Although the Asylum's early superintendents frequently asked the Legislature for funds to complete Center Building, they were never provided.
The Asylum began accepting patients in 1848. These first patients came from the Insane Department of New Orleans' Charity Hospital and from local jails across the state. The initial staff at the Insane Asylum consisted of twelve people. From 1848 to 1850 there were 130 admissions. By 1898 there were over a thousand patients in residence at the Asylum. In 1922 its name was changed to East Louisiana State Hospital. Today it has a staff of over a thousand employees, and almost seven hundred patients reside there. The latter figure would be much higher if the hospital's functions had not been divided among several new independent agencies in recent years. Click here for more...