Western State Hospital Hopkinsville
|Western State Hospital Hopkinsville|
|Current Status||Active and Preserved|
|Building Style||Kirkbride Plan|
|Peak Patient Population||2,000 in 1950|
On the 25th of February, 1848, the Legislature of Kentucky provided for the location and erection of a second lunatic asylum. The Spring Hill tract of 383 acres of land (which proved to be of indifferent quality) on the turnpike road east of Hopkinsville, was purchased for $1,971.50 (only $5.14 per acre). This sum was refunded by the citizens, and $2,000 additional paid by them. There was expended upon the buildings and other improvements in 1849 $43,052; in 1850, $43,484; the additional outlays for these purposes do not appear in any documents before us. The Legislature appropriated $15,000 in 1848, $20,000 in 1849, $45,000 in 1850, $35,000 in 1851 $43,000 in 1852, $44,017 in 1854; total, $202,017. September 1, 1854, the first patients were received. By December 1, 1857, 208 had been admitted, but only 102 were then in the institution, the others having died, eloped, or been restored and discharged under the care of the Superintendent, Dr. S. Annan. The number admitted in 1858, 106; and in 1859 to December 1st, 129 ; total for two years, 235 ; during the same time 133 were discharged, of whom 65 were restored, 56 died, and 10 escaped.
On the 30th of November, 1861, the main building was destroyed at mid-day by fire, which caught from sparks from a chimney falling upon a shingle roof. The 210 patients escaped uninjured, except one, who fastened himself in his room, near where the fire originated, and perished in the flames. The court house and other buildings in Hopkinsville were kindly tendered for the use of the unfortunates; twenty-three hewed log-cabins were speedily erected at about $90 each, and everything done that could well be to mitigate the sufferings of the patients. The walls being mainly uninjured it was estimated that $50,000 would replace the brick and wood work, and $67,000 more (including $3,856 for tin roof and gutters) would complete the building. In February, 1861, the Legislature made an appropriation to begin it, and before January 1, 1867, had appropriated in all $258,930 to complete the rebuilding. This, added to the manager’s probable net valuation of the property after the destruction by fire of the interior of the main building $145,420 (exclusive of the enhanced value of the land itself, makes the total value of the improvements at that time (1867) $404,350, providing comfortably for 325 patients.
Some time in the year 1863 the present able and successful Superintendent, Dr. James Rodman, took charge of the asylum. The total number of patients received and treated up to October 10, 1871, was 1.273. of whom 321 were then in the asylum. Calculated upon the number of patients received, 50.847 per cent were discharged restored, eight were discharged more or less improved, two were unimproved, one escaped and twenty-two died. There is (nearly) one insane person (October, 1871) in every 1,000 persons of the population, at least 1,400 in Kentucky, of whom there is room in the two asylums for only 850, and both are full.
The Kentucky General Assembly changed the name of the hospital to Western State Hospital in 1919. Investigations by state officials and the Welfare Committee in the late 1930s resulted in renovations and higher standards. In 1950, 2,200 patients were admitted as "incompetent" with loss of rights. Tranquilizers came into use in 1955. By the late 1950s, several psychotropic medications were being marketed and there was a deinstitutionalization effort to weed out patients that did not need to be at the facility.
Today Western State Hospital is a 222-bed psychiatric hospital serving individuals 18 or older from a 34-county area in western Kentucky. It provides acute psychiatric care for mentally ill patients, psychiatric rehabilitation for chronic mental illness and provides acute psychiatric care for geriatric patients. Its other two buildings include Western State Nursing Facility — a 144-bed treatment facility for mentally disabled geriatric residents that provides care for adults with severe and persistent mental illness who require nursing-facility level of care. Patients can only be admitted as transfers from state psychiatric facilities within Kentucky.
 Images of Western State Hospital
Main Image Gallery: Western State Hospital Hopkinsville
The first burial was held shortly after the hospital opened and was used until the early 1960s. The exact number of graves is not known but somewhere around 5,000-7,000 former patients are buried there and are all unmarked. In the 1930s a field fire destroyed all of the wooden grave markers, then in the 1970s someone removed the few stone markers to make mowing the field easier but was unable to put them back in their proper place. The cemetery may be visited by contacting hospital administration.
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