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In 1850, Dorothea Dix persuaded the General Assembly to appropriate money for a state-run psychiatric hospital in Raleigh. By 1875, an estimated 700 North Carolinians were classified as “insane” and not receiving proper care. One hospital thus proved insufficient to meet the needs of the State’s mentally ill. Therefore, on March 20, 1875, the General Assembly voted to provide $75,000 to establish a second state hospital. Four western North Carolina cities, Statesville, Hickory, Asheville, and Morganton, competed to become the home for the institution that was to be known in its early years as the Western North Carolina Insane Asylum. Morganton was selected.
Gifts and purchases resulted in 263 acres being acquired by the State in 1875. Work began almost immediately. As an economy measure, 50 convicts were released from penitentiaries and brought to Morganton to help make bricks for the hospital’s first building. The brick contractor was responsible for the feeding, safekeeping, and return of the convicts. Realizing that the building under construction would not provide adequate space and due to insufficient funding to expand its size, the General Assembly appropriated an additional $60,000 in 1877 for another wing. Five years later, in December 1882, the Avery Building and its south wing were completed. Dr. Patrick Livingston Murphy was hired as the first superintendent, a position in which he served for 25 years. Click here for more...