Kankakee State Hospital

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Kankakee State Hospital
Established 1877
Construction Began 1878
Opened 1879
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Kirkbride Plan
Location Kankakee, IL
Architecture Style Romanesque
Alternate Names
  • Illinois Eastern Hospital for the Insane
  • Kankakee Developmental Center
  • Kankakee Mental Health Center
  • Governor Samuel H. Shapiro Development Center


On May 25, 1877, the Illinois Legislature approved the building of a new hospital to serve the eastern part of the state. The legislation directed Gov. Shelby Cullom to appoint a group of seven commissioners who would choose a location for the new institution. Selection of the commissioners involved regional rivalries and other political considerations; the final makeup of that group could be vital in determining which town would be chosen. Many cities offered inducements by way of donations, for the location of the new hospital but the site finally selected was a farm of 250 acres near Kankakee, and this was subsequently enlarged by the purchase of 327 additional acres in 1881.

Work was begun in 1878 and the first patients received in December 1879. the plan of the institution is, in many respects, unique. It comprises a general building three stories high capable of accommodating 300 to 400 patients and a number of detached buildings, technically termed cottages, where various classes of insane patients may be grouped and receive the particular treatment best adapted to ensure their recovery. The plans were mainly worked out from suggestions by Frederick Howard Wines, LL.D., then Secretary of the Board of Public Charities, and have attracted generally favorable comment both in this country and abroad.

The seventy-five buildings occupied for the various purposes of the institution, cover a quarter section of land laid off in regular streets, beautified with trees, plants and flowers, and presenting all the appearance of a flourishing village with numerous small parks adorned with walks and drives.

The counties from which patients are received include: Cook, Champaign, Coles, Cumberland, De Witt, Douglas Edgar, Ford, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, La Salle, Livingston, Macon, McLean, Moultrie, Piatt, Shelby, Vermilion and Will. The whole number of patients in 1898 was 2,200 while the employees of all classes numbered 500.

For the first quarter-century of its existence, the hospital grew steadily in both physical facilities and patient population. The first patient was admitted on Dec. 4, 1879; by Jan. 1, 1880, the patient population was 33. The patient population had risen to 2,300 by 1903, with more than 700 people (including eight physicians) providing treatment and support services. By 1903, the original dozen or so buildings had increased to nearly 50. The large central clock tower building, with multi-story wings on each side, housed hundreds of patients as well as hospital offices and living quarters for physicians. Twenty-six large stone cottages provided housing for from 24 to 173 patients each; 15 housed male patients, and 11 were reserved for female patients. More than two dozen additional structures served various support functions and employee housing.

In 1975 the hospital became the center for care and treatment of the developmentally disabled and all other patients were moved elsewhere. The Kirkbride houses offices & a small number of elderly patients.


This hospital started out planned as a Kirkbride, but was changed to a cottage plan while it was still being planned and built. It has been argued that this hospital was the first cottage plan to be built. Yet, some of the buildings on the campus do have building/ground styles that can be attributed to the Kirkbride plan.

Images of Kankakee State Hospital[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Kankakee State Hospital



Located next to the Kankakee Community College, which used to be part of the hospital farm. The cemetery contains 1,500-2,000 graves of patients.

Links & Additional Information[edit]

An article on the 1885 fire

The Architecture of Madness-Insane Asylums in the United States, Yanni, Carla, University of Minnesota Press (2007)