Southwestern State Hospital

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Southwestern State Hospital
Established 1884
Opened 1887
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Marion, VA
Alternate Names
  • Southwestern Lunatic Asylum
  • Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institute

[edit] History

In March 1884 the Virginia General Assembly appointed a board of commissioners to select a site for a new lunatic asylum for white citizens to be built west of New River. The board selected a 208-acre site in Smyth County and in August 1884 the General Assembly gave the board the power to purchase the land for thirty thousand dollars and granted the county the right to issue bonds as well. In November 1884 the General Assembly formally established the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum, near Marion, Virginia. Dr. Harvey Black, J. Hoge Tyler, Thomas J. Boyd, D.D. Hull, Dr. John S. Apperson, N.L. Look and F.B. Hurt were appointed to the building committee which was tasked with overseeing the construction of the hospital.

Dr. Harvey Black became the first superintendent of Southwestern Lunatic Asylum when it opened in May 1887. Dr. Robert J. Preston and Dr. John S. Apperson served as assistant physicians, and Mr. C.W. White was appointed as steward to oversee the day-to-day business operations of the hospital. The patient population grew steadily and over time several buildings were added to the hospital's campus including a tuberculosis treatment building, a building for the criminally insane, the Davis Clinic, and the Harmon Building. For much of its early history, the hospital was mostly self-sufficient through the utilization of its own farm for meat, milk, and vegetables. Other early hospital superintendents include Dr. Robert J. Preston (1888-1906), Dr. Daniel Trigg (1906-1908), Dr. J.C. King (1908-1915), Dr. E.H. Henderson (1915-1927), and Dr. George A. Wright (1927-1937).

One of the hospital's most influential superintendents, Dr. Joseph R. Blalock, served from 1938 to 1971 and was the force behind many changes in treatment including the use of psycho-surgery, drug therapy, and vocational rehabilitation. By the mid-1970s, deinstitutionalization had greatly diminished the patient population as mental health treatment became more community-focused. In 1981, the Virginia Department of Corrections took over the care and treatment of adjudicated criminally insane patients at the hospital. This institution is adjacent to the hospital and is known as the Marion Correctional Treatment Center. In 1986, the General Assembly passed legislation providing for the demolition and reconstruction of much of Southwestern State Hospital. The new Bagley Building was constructed to house 177 patients in an integrated care design with living and treatment areas in one place. All adult patients were moved to the new complex in March 1990.

The hospital has gone through two name changes in its history. In 1935 the General Assembly passed legislation changing the name from Southwestern Lunatic Asylum to Southwestern State Hospital. In 1988, the name was changed to Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institute.

[edit] Images of Southwestern State Hospital

Main Image Gallery: Southwestern State Hospital

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