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Established 1859
Construction Began 1859
Opened 1860
Closed 1969
Demolished 1971
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Single Building
Location Clifton Heights, Delaware County
Peak Patient Population 40
Alternate Names
  • Burn Brae Retreat for the Insane
  • Burn Brae Hospital
  • Burn Brae Asylum

Burn-Brae Hospital for the Insane was a private 40-bed hospital for 'mental and nervous diseases' which operated in Clifton Heights, a suburb of Philadelphia, PA. It was founded by Dr. R.A. Given, and openedg in the spring of 1860. The hospital continued to operate as a psychiatric hospital until 1969, when the changing atmosphere of mental healthcare casued it to close. When it was originally opened in the late 19th century, it was 8.5 miles from the limits of the City of Philadelphia, and located near the Oaklane station of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroads.


Dr. Robert A. Given, an Irish immigrant and formally an assistant physician at the Institute at the Pennsylvania Hospital, erected buildings near the village of Clifton in the summer of 1859. There he established a private hospital for wealthy patients afflicted with, what was then known as, 'nervous and mental diseases'. It was designed and licensed by the commonwealth to accomodate forty patients, twenty male and twenty female. The main building was originally constructed of stone, three stories high with a basement. Shortly after construction a mansard roof was added giving the building a fourth floor in which the amusement hall was located. Each department contained four wards: a parlor, a hallway 60' long and 8' wide, and a bath room. Though both sexes were originally housed in the same building, many improvements were made from time to time in different halls, rendering the hospital's accomodations more attractive.

In the women's department, an annex building measuring 30'x 50' was erected in 1885, which was it necessary because of the enlargement of the patient rooms in the main building. The hospital's grounds were originally 25-acres, but by 1885 they had been expanded to 43-acres. The 25-acres dedicated to patient recreation were handsomely laid out and planted with a variety of ornamental trees, evergreen and diceduous. A farm of thirty two acres, partially heavily wooded, was also found on site. The wooded grounds, besides for escuring the patients perfect privacy, affording them to take lesiure walks, acrossing: the pleasing variety of hills and valleys, meadows, brooks and woodland. No efforts were spared to render the hospital building fire proof. Fire escapes were attached to both wings of the facility; and in addition, arrangements exist on each floor to enable the occupants to pass readily from side-to-side without the use of the stairs. The building throughout was thoroughly heated with steam and lighted by gas.

After running the hospital for thirty years, Dr. Given died on January 10, 1888. The hospital continued to operate for the next century, albeit with a dropping census, until 1969 when it was forced to shut its doors, citing financial stressors. The current cite of the property is a local indoor bazaar.

From the 1884 Philadelphia Medical Registry

"This institutional although not within in the city limits, is so near them as to be properly mentioned in connection with the objects of this work. It is a private Hospital for mental disease, and derives it support from the payments made for board and medical care of patients. No patient is received for a less period than three months. A certificate of insanity, signed by two physicians, and acknowledged before a magustrate, is invariably required. A lady, well educated and of unexceptionable manners and deportment, resides in the same apartments, and devotes her time to lady patients, thus securing them on all ocasions a pleasant companion and a watchful friend. A limited number of cases of Opium habit can be admitted."

Images of Burn-Brae

Main Image Gallery: Burn-Brae

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