Camarillo State Hospital

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Camarillo State Hospital
Camarillo State Hospital
Construction Began 1932
Opened 1936
Closed 1997
Current Status Closed
Building Style Cottage Plan
Architecture Style Mission Revival Style
Peak Patient Population 7,000 in 1957
Alternate Names Camarillo State Mental Hospital
California State University, Channel Islands

Camarillo State Mental Hospital, also known as Camarillo State Hospital, was a psychiatric hospital for both developmentally disabled and mentally ill patients in Camarillo, California. The hospital closed in 1997. The site has been redeveloped as the California State University, Channel Islands. The University has retained the distinctive Mission Revival Style architecture, and the distinctive bell tower in the South quad is now the symbol of the university.


In 1932, the State of California purchased 1,760 acres (7.1 km2) of the Lewis ranch, located three miles south of the city of Camarillo, and established the Camarillo State Mental Hospital. Camarillo State Hospital was in use from 1936 to 1997. During its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, the hospital was at the forefront of treating illnesses that previously had been thought of as untreatable. An example of this was the drug and therapy procedures the facility's doctors developed for schizophrenia. Many of these programs initiated at Camarillo helped patients formerly relegated to a lifetime of warehousing in an institution or lobotomies be able to leave the hospital and move to less restrictive group homes or become (at least nearly) independent. The hospital continued to be a leader in the research of drugs and therapies in subsequent years. They also had one of the first units of any hospital to deal with autism.

Due to its low patient number and the rising costs per patient, the governor of California at the time, Republican Pete Wilson, announced in January 1996 plans to close down the hospital in July 1997. Various members of the community, family members of patients, and employees of Camarillo made several last-ditch efforts to keep the hospital open, arguing in part that the patients are already used to Camarillo and questioned where they would go. Some tried to get mentally ill criminals placed in Camarillo in an effort to save it, a proposal that had come up several times before, but again community members were concerned of the risk of criminals escaping into the community. Pete Wilson ended up standing his ground and the hospital closed down in late June 1997, with the patients and research facilities moved to other locations.

Originally it was intended to turn Camarillo into a prison, but community opposition in part and interest from the Cal State Universities led to its conversion into a university- California State University, Channel Islands (CSUCI). CSUCI had its first classes in fall 2002, four years ahead of the original schedule. Most of the buildings of Camarillo have been preserved and revitalized, including all the original 1930s mission-style buildings. The university is Ventura County's first public university and is quickly becoming a destination university. It had 2,300 students in 2006, but is expected to grow to 15,000 by 2025.

In Literature[edit]

In 1976, a nurse under the name of Nadine Scolla published a diary she had kept while working in Camarillo State Hospital, this set of a chain of events leading to investigations related to the allegations of abuse from the book. The book titled "Keeper of the Keys", told of gold fillings pulled out of new patients' mouths and other acts of abuse or by the staff who were often aware and desensitized to the issues going on inside. Due to the nature of the novel, the book was barred from publishing several times and the author was later found dead in her after a home invasion all of this was later detailed in newer editions of the book.


Main Image Gallery: Camarillo State Hospital


Here is a video from the hospital when it was still active. It was an employee orientation video uploaded on Youtube by the people over at Camarillo State Hospital Courtyard.

Part 1 Part 2
Part 3 Part 4

The following is a forty minute video documenting the history of Camarillo State hospital that had been created by the California Department of Developmental Services and was uploaded to youtube by

Further Reading[edit]

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