East Tennessee Hospital for the Insane

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East Tennessee Hospital for the Insane
Established 1875
Opened 1886
Closed 2012
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Kirkbride Plan
Location Knoxville, TN
Peak Patient Population 2,560 in 1956
Alternate Names
  • Lyons View
  • Eastern State Hospital
  • Eastern State Psychiatric Hospital
  • Lakeshore Mental Health Institute


The East Tennessee Hospital for the Insane was built on land previously owned by Capt. William Lyon, after more than a dozen years of funding stops and starts and political infighting. The East Tennessee Hospital for the Insane opened in 1886 with 99 patients transferred from the older Tennessee Lunatic Asylum in Nashville. In 1920, the facility's name was changed to Eastern State Hospital as part of a program to rename all of the asylums in the state.

In 1956, Gov. Frank Clement tours Eastern State, calls what he saw — including 984 patients sleeping on floor pallets because of lack of beds — sad but not surprising. Following the 1955 invention of the tranquilizer, the hospital adopted a new form of treatment. In 1960, they introduced the $2 million Therapeutic Village, which included cottages, a store, a clinic, a coffee bar, a chapel and a pool. Gov. Winfield Dunn appointed a committee to investigate conditions after Rep. Richard Krieg leads unannounced post-midnight visit to overcrowded wards in 1971. The Committee found too little staff, too little training, and unsanitary and inhumane conditions in aging buildings.

By 1977, the hospital's name was changed to Lakeshore Mental Institute. Shortly thereafter, in 1980, the state began their plan to shift the patients at Lakeshore to community. State revenue shortfall in 1990 forced reduction of staff, beds; long-term patients released into community. More than half of new admissions denied. State "census" of mentally ill among homeless suggests figure jumped from 12 percent in 1986 to 47 percent. On June 30, 2012 after 126 years of operation, Lakeshore Mental Health Institute officially closed as part of a $25 million budget reduction measure. Not much later, in the spring of 2013, a former employee found patients' records laying in one the buildings, which contained case numbers, dates of birth and Social Security numbers. All buildings have been demolished, except for the administration building of the Kirkbride. The property is now a city park.

Images of East Tennessee State Hospital[edit]

Main Image Gallery: East Tennessee State Hospital


The cemetery is located on Lyons View Drive in West Knoxville. The cemetery at present lies adjacent to Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery at the intersection of Lyons View Drive and Northshore Drive. It is located behind the Episcopal Church of the Ascension. The cemetery, which was first used in the late 1880's, has over 4,000 interments with most being unmarked. Number markers were erected by the Hospital at one time, but these records have long since been destroyed as a result of the privacy act. A few graves have markers that were erected by family members. It later became the custom after the 1960's to send unclaimed bodies to the Memphis State Medical Facility for use in classroom studies. Legible markers were copied by Robert McGinnis in February 1983, and the cemetery was rechecked and photographed in March 2000.