Bartonville State Hospital

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Bartonville State Hospital
Construction Began 1885
Opened 1902
Closed 1972
Demolished 2018
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Peoria, IL
Peak Patient Population 2,800 in 1952
Alternate Names
  • Peoria State Hospital
  • Peoria State Hospital for the Incurable Insane
  • Illinois General Hospital for the Insane
  • Bartonville Asylum


Construction on the Bartonville State Hospital began in 1885, and the main structure-an enormous building most closely resembling a medieval castle-was completed in 1887. The building was never used, apparently due to the structural damage caused when the abandoned mine shafts it was built over collapsed. The psychiatric hospital was rebuilt in 1902 under the direction of Dr. George Zeller and implemented a cottage system of 33 buildings, including patient and caretaker housing, a store, a power station, and a communal utility building. Zeller was considered a pioneer of a kinder generation of mental health care, using no window bars or other restraints in his design. In 1907, the name was changed to Peoria State Hospital.

On the hospital's 25th anniversary in 1927, the population was 2,650 with a total of 13,510 patients having entered the facility. During this time, Dr. Zeller was widely respected for his focus on therapeutic efforts. Zeller crusaded for a better public understanding of the mentally ill including inviting newspaper reporters and community members to visit Peoria State. From 1943 until 1969 the hospital participated in a departmental affiliation program for psychiatric nursing which provided instruction in psychiatric nursing to students from regional general hospital nursing schools.

From 1917 until 1961 the hospital was operated by the Illinois Department of Public Welfare. In 1961 the Department of Mental Health was created and assumed responsibility of the institution. At its peak in the 1950s, Bartonville housed 2,800 patients. By 1972 when its closure was announced, the patient census had dropped to 600. After the hospital closed, the buildings stood empty and were auctioned off. When the initial auction buyer went bankrupt, developer, Winsley Durand, Jr., took over ownership with the hope of creating office space in the structures. His plan was never fully realized and the buildings remained empty. Since that time, many of the remaining structures have been demolished and others were renovated to house various commercial and industrial businesses. The Village of Bartonville has established the entire property as a TIF district to encourage further growth and development of the property.

In September 2017 the Bowen Building was torn down so the city could salvage the limestone. After 122 years the Peoria State Hospital was no more.

Images of Bartonville State Hospital[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Bartonville State Hospital


Since the closing of the State Hospital, all records have been (and remain) closed. The last body laid to rest was in 1973. The State of Illinois decreed that historians and genealogists can not record the names, birth & death dates of any grave. Over 1500 are identified and those are recorded. But many of the remaining graves bear only a number & the State of Illinois will not release information even under a Court Order to do so.


  • Bittersweet Memories: A History of the Peoria State Hospital, by Gary L. Lisman and Arlene Parr
  • Asylum Light: Stories from the Dr. George A. Zeller Era and Beyond; Peoria State Hospital, Galesburg Mental Health Center, and George A. Zeller Mental Health Center, by James Sheridan Ward
  • The Architecture of Madness-Insane Asylums in the United States by Carla Yanni


  • The following is a three part series done by Janette Washington as part of a senior thesis.