Wyoming State Hospital

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Wyoming State Hospital
Construction Began 1887
Opened 1888
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Architect(s) William Dubois/Leon C. Goodrich
Location Evanston, WY
Architecture Style Victorian Romanesque
Alternate Names
  • Wyoming State Hospital for the Insane



History[edit]

The State of Wyoming has demonstrated a historical interest in the mentally ill, as is demonstrated by a legislative proclamation on December 7, 1869, that stated, “provide for ...idiots, lunatics, and insane persons by transporting them to any eastern asylum". In March of 1886, the Wyoming Territorial Legislature appropriated $30,000 for the erection of a State Mental Hospital. The "Insane Asylum" was completed in 1887. On March 1, 1897, the fourth Wyoming Legislature changed the Hospital name to the Wyoming State Hospital for the Insane. In 1923, the Seventeenth Legislature declared, “the official name of the asylum shall be the Wyoming State Hospital.”

The first building in 1887 housed male patients and their attendants on the first floor, women patients and their attendants on the second floor, and kitchens, pantries, and storerooms in the basement. The present campus encompasses over twenty-five buildings. The hospital suffered a serious setback in 1917 and historic preservation a real loss when a fire destroyed "all the buildings for male patients, including our central or administration building." All that survived the fire was the 1916 addition to the Building for Men, which was connected to the main building by a short hall and which lost only its roof. Superintendent Solier explains that "thus building had a reinforced concrete slab for the attic floor, which effectually arrested the progress of the fire."

By 1918, with a patient census at 231, Solier reported that the construction of a one-story fireproof cottage to house 45 of the "more disturbed and unmanageable male patients" was nearly completed and would be occupied shortly. The Building for Special Male Patients was designed by William Dubois, and built with patient labor, using material salvaged from the fire as much as possible. 28 Patient labor was also used during 1917 and 1918 to excavate the foundation and tunnel connecting the new cottage for men with the main tunnel between the Building for Men and the Women's Building.

In 1922, the patient population had reached 322, an increase of nearly 30% in just four years. During that year, the basement of the Women's Building was converted to additional wards for female patients, and the superintendent recommended the construction of more accommodations for male patients. In 1924, a two-story and basement addition was made to the Building for Men. Constructed as an extension of the east end of the north wing, the addition contained 28 rooms housing about 75 men. "It is constructed of the same material and along the same architectural lines as the main building," Solier reported, "so that it does not detract in any way from its appearance or interfere with its ward arrangements." Between 1929 and 1930 an addition to the Building for Special Male Patients was constructed to house 25 male patients "of a class that require special accommodations in the way of housing arrangements so that we are enabled to sleep many of our more dangerous and homicidal ones in individual strong rooms."

In April 1931, Dr. David Williams succeeded Solier as superintendent. Williams' took over the hospital superintendency at a critical period in the history of American mental hospitals. First, the Depression and later World War II drained public funds away from these institutions, so that new construction came to a virtual halt during the 1930s and early 1940s. 45 At the Wyoming State Hospital, the only patient related structure erected during this period was the Building for the Criminal Insane, completed in 1935 as a Federal Public Works Project. It was also the last patient building to be constructed during the period of significance. Second, radically different treatment methods began to emerge in the 1930s that promised to transform mental hospitals from primarily custodial institutions, which the Wyoming State Hospital had clearly become, to places where permanent cures were affected. Among these treatments were insulin-coma induction, electroshock, lobotomy, and after World War II psychotropic drug therapy.

During the post-World War II era, two more trends in the treatment of the mentally ill affected the physical development of the Wyoming State Hospital. The first was the rapid development and use of psychotropic drugs to control the symptoms and regulate the behavior of the mentally ill, thus reducing the need for long-term care in an institution. The second, in the late 1950s, was the emergence of a national policy calling for community-based mental health care which relied on outpatient and day care facilities rather than more expensive mental hospitals to care for the nation's mentally ill. The result has been a steady decline in patient populations in mental hospitals all over the United States, including at the Wyoming State Hospital.

In addition to the five treatment units housed in nine treatment halls, there are facilities for staff as well as a chapel, Canteen Country Store, and a dining room and kitchen complex for residents and staff.


Images of East Louisiana State Hospital[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Wyoming State Hospital