Connecticut State Hospital

From Asylum Projects
Revision as of 21:09, 27 January 2012 by Squad546 (talk | contribs)
Jump to: navigation, search
Connecticut State Hospital
Connecticut State Hospital
Established 1866
Construction Began June 20, 1867
Construction Ended 1874
Opened May 1868
Current Status Active
Building Style Kirkbride Plan
Location Middletown, CT
Alternate Names
  • Connecticut Asylum for the Insane
  • Connecticut Valley Hospital


The following is from a 1916 report

In 1866 an act to create a hospital for the insane in the State of Connecticut was passed, but the birthday of the Connecticut Hospital for the Insane cannot truly be said to have occurred until it was delivered to the public April 30, 1868.

The report of the commission appointed by the Assembly in the year 1865 showed that there were 706 insane persons in the State of Connecticut, of whom 202 were in the Retreat at Hartford; 204 in the almshouses; and 300 outside of both; that it was impossible to secure suitable care and medical attention for this large and deeply afflicted class, either in the Retreat or in the almshouses, or in private houses; and that considerations of humanity and of true economy, as well as public welfare, demanded that these persons should liberally be provided for by the state.

The act, modified and supplemented by other acts, appears in the revision of the General Statutes, 1888. It provided that "The land of the state and its appurtenances in Middletown shall be and remain the Connecticut Hospital for the Insane." Further, "That the government shall be vested in a board consisting of the Governor and 12 trustees to be appointed by the Senate, one from each county and four from the vicinity of the institution. During the regular session of the General Assembly of 1889 the Senate shall appoint six of said trustees, of whom three shall hold office for four years from the first day of July, 1889, and three for three years from the first day of July, 1890. During the regular session of the General Assembly of 1891, and biennially thereafter, the Senate shall appoint six trustees, who shall hold office for four years from the first day of July following their appointment. The Governor may fill any vacancy which occurs during the recess of the General Assembly until its regular session. No trustee shall receive compensation for his services.

1 This history was prepared by the late Dr. Henry S. Noble.

"The trustees shall have charge of the general interests of the institution, make and execute its by-laws, appoint and remove its officers and attendants, fix their compensation, exercise a strict supervision over all its expenditures, and may receive by bequest, devise or gift property for the use of the hospital.

"They shall appoint a superintendent, not of their own number, who shall be a competent physician and reside in or near the hospital.

"They shall appoint a treasurer, with a salary not exceeding $400 a year, who shall give a bond to the state of $10,000 and whose accounts, with the vouchers, shall be submitted quarterly, and oftener if required, to the trustees, with a written statement of his disbursements and funds in hand; and his books shall be at all times open to the trustees."

From 1866 the successive Governors of Connecticut have been ex-officio members of the Board of Trustees.

Middletown, which is situated on a bend of the Connecticut River, nearly at the center of the state and easily reached from all points, was chosen as the location for the Hospital, not only because it was central, but also because here it was possible to obtain abundance of water from a reservoir by gravity, and to dispose of sewage by the simple method of surface irrigation on the farm; moreover the river was conveniently near for the delivery of coal and other freight. The people of Middletown granted a suitable farm and valuable water privileges.

Besides the land given by the town of Middletown, 80 acres adjoining it were purchased. From time to time other purchases of land have been required by the growth of the Hospital until in 1912 the total amounted to 650 acres.

In 1867 connection was made with the first reservoir by a castiron pipe six inches in diameter. In 1887 a companion water main eight inches in diameter was laid.

After the site was chosen building operations progressed sufficiently to permit the corner-stone of the Hospital to be laid June 20, 1867. On May-day, 1868, the center and one wing of the main building were ready for the accommodation of patients. During the succeeding six years the other three wings were added, and in 1874 the Hospital was considered to be complete, having beds for 450 patients.

Middletown (2).png

This stone structure, four stories high, was built on the so-called "linear" plan, with eight wards for patients on either side of the central portion, in which were the kitchens and offices. Back of the center and connected by an underground tramway were the laundry, bakery, sewing room, engine room and the boilers. Still further back was the "annex," at first used as a joiners' and painters' shop, although erected " with the ulterior view " of being devoted to the isolation of insane convicts.

Already the utility of the "cottage system" had been demonstrated by lodging certain demented patients in two old dwelling houses left standing on the hospital grounds. By the river, a third of a mile away, was the hospital dock, and near it the coal house. A large barn and a piggery completed the list of structures at that time. The total appropriations for land and construction, 18661876, amounted to $640,043.

These provisions did not long suffice, for the trustees state in their report to the Legislature of 1877, that as they "do not deem it desirable to enlarge this hospital, they earnestly urge the importance of immediate provision for the erection of a new hospital"; and to the Legislature of 1878 they mention the urgent need of "another hospital of similar grade." The next year the board repeated this advice, as the Hospital was overcrowded and insane persons were obliged to wait for weeks to be admitted, or else be cared for in other institutions.

It was also in 1879 that a commission, consisting of Gurdon W. Russell, M. D., Henry W. Buel, M. D., and Ephraim Williams, appointed by the Governor to investigate the need of further accommodations for the insane poor of the state and to report upon a location and plans for such hospital buildings if needed, reported to the General Assembly that further accommodations were necessary, there being about 400 insane poor for whom the state had made no hospital provision, and they recommended erecting in the immediate vicinity of the existing hospital plain buildings of brick, containing 250 beds.

Connecticut SH BLDG A.jpg

Nevertheless, no legislative action was taken until the following year, when it was resolved by the General Assembly and approved by the Governor, March 24, 1880, "that a committee of three be appointed by the Governor, who shall cause to be built within one year additional buildings for the accommodation of the insane, adjacent to the present hospital at Middletown, according to the plans and estimates of the commission presented to this General Assembly; and that there be appropriated from any moneys now in the treasury of this state a sum not exceeding $130,000 for the erection and furnishing of said buildings. Said committee shall make report to the next session of the General Assembly; provided, that of the sum hereby appropriated not less than $5000 shall be reserved for the construction of suitable buildings or apartments upon the grounds of said Connecticut Hospital for the Insane wherein insane convicts shall be placed and cared for separate from the other inmates of said hospital."

In accordance with this act the Governor appointed as a building committee Melancthon Storrs, M. D., William J. Atwater and Charles G. R. Vinal, who immediately entered upon their duties.

It was found that the inclination of the ground at the south end of the proposed building favored the construction of a small ward in the basement, and the required separate apartments for insane female convicts were there provided, the trustees having already devoted the " annex " to the use of male convicts.

To the Legislature of 1881 the committee was able to report satisfactory progress, and July 20 the building, finished and furnished at an expense of $130,000 with 262 beds for patients, was formally transferred by the committee to the Board of Trustees. This was made the occasion of a memorial gathering of many friends of the hospital.

The pressing need of more room may be inferred from the fact that the new building was soon filled to excess, and that the Legislature in 1884 and 1885 made appropriations for the erection, on land purchased by special appropriations in 1882, of an additional building " for the care of the insane of this state, and particularly to furnish one or more wards for the better classification and accommodation of the epileptic insane."

This building, completed early in 1886 and furnished with 300 beds, stands about 175 feet south of the building erected in 1881; both front westward, and resemble one another in their essential features. Each is of brick, three stories high; has six wards containing 50 beds, more or less, in rooms on either side of a long corridor, broken in the center by a bay which serves as a day room; has two large dining rooms, where the patients congregate for their meals. In this particular these two buildings differ markedly from the old main building, in which every ward has its separate dining room.

Connecticut SH BLDG B.jpg

The total number of patients was now above 1000, and the revenue began to exceed the cost of maintenance.1 The resulting surplus of cash enabled the trustees to make several improvements rendered necessary by the growth of the hospital.

An addition to the annex provided a workshop for convicts. A reception room and a medical office were added to the middle hospital. A supplemental water main was laid; a green house and bowling alley were built; a brick cottage, accommodating 70 patients, chiefly those working out of doors; a horse barn, coal house, an ice house and a cottage for employees were also erected.

The Legislature bestowed more than tacit approval upon these expenditures, for in 1889, the Hospital then having 1300 patients,

1 The trustees of the hospital are the custodians of a certain fund known as the Atwater fund, created by the following clause in the will of the late George Atwater, of the town of Hamden, dated October 2, 1867:

"I direct and require that the said assistant trustees of my estate shall within two years after the death of my said wife Maria, if she shall survive my said daughter Eunice, or within two years after the death of my said daughter Eunice, if she shall survive her mother, convey to the persons who shall at that time constitute the Board of Trustees of 'The General Hospital for the Insane of the State of Connecticut,' located in Middletown, to them and their successors in office, all the remainder of my estate, both real and personal, to have and to hold the same in trust for the uses, intents and purposes hereinafter mentioned and declared concerning the same, viz.:

"The said trustees of the General Hospital for the Insane of the State of Connecticut shall reserve the whole amount received from my estate as a separate fund (to be known as the Atwater fund) for the benefit of the insane poor of the State of Connecticut, and shall have the right to appropriate and expend the annual income of the fund for the support of indigent insane persons, giving preference to indigent insane persons, if any such there may be, belonging to and having legal residence in my native town of Hamden; but the said trustees shall not appropriate or expend the principal of the fund."

This trust fund was accepted by a vote of the trustees of the hospital January 14, 1886.

it was resolved by the General Assembly that the Board of Trustees be authorized and instructed to expend from the funds of the Hospital an amount necessary to erect a building furnishing accommodations for at least 120 persons. By an addition to each wing of the south hospital, and by the completion of the unpretentious, but very comfortable and convenient, cottage, of which one-third was built the year before, 150 patients were accommodated.

Other items of construction followed, of which the most costly was an assembly room, seating over 600 persons, the original chapel and amusement hall being no longer adequate.

As the number of patients again exceeded the capacity of the institution and a disposition to enlarge it still further was manifested by the Legislature, it was voted at a special meeting of the Board of Trustees, April, 1889, that " in the opinion of this board the economic and humane interests of the state require that additional accommodations for its insane be provided in some other locality."

In 1893 the General Assembly resolved "that a building committee of five members, three of whom shall be elected by the Trustees of the Connecticut Hospital for the Insane, and two of whom shall be elected by the Senate, be authorized and directed to cause the erection in the town of Middletown of a suitable building sufficient for the accommodation of 250 insane persons of the class known as incurable insane; and to expend for said purpose a sum of money not to exceed $70,000. A further sum of $30,000, or so much thereof as shall be necessary, is hereby appropriated from the State Treasury to furnish and complete said building."

This act was approved June 30, 1893, and the Trustees elected from their number Henry Woodward, Andrew C. Smith and Samuel Russell to be members of the building committee.

Already the Trustees, finding the water supply insufficient in the time of drought, had availed themselves of the privileges guaranteed to them by the town of Middletown, " the full and complete use and enjoyment of the water of Butler's Creek and Silver Creek," by purchasing the requisite land and constructing a reservoir on Silver Creek. Fortunately, too, just at this time, a farm extending from the northern limit of the hospital grounds to the Connecticut River was for sale, and its purchase provided a most admirable site for the future buildings. As from time to time the water supply has threatened to be inadequate, other reservoirs have been added to the first one built in 1867. The water is all delivered to the hospital by gravity, and efficient fire protection is maintained by the pressure afforded by the 160-175 feet elevation of the principal reservoirs, but this has been supplemented by the installation of a powerful fire pump.

Section 7, Chapter 102, of the Public Acts, 1867, provides that "the trustees are hereby authorized and empowered to make and establish such by-laws as they may deem necessary and expedient."

Accordingly, the Board of Trustees adopted certain by-laws and regulations and revised them in 1887 and again in 1902, designating the duties of the persons employed in the Hospital, viz.:

1. The superintendent is required to exercise ".entire official control over all subordinate officers " and over the treatment of all patients; to conduct the correspondence and to see that due care is taken of all hospital property.

2. The assistant physicians, each has under his special care a certain number of patients for individual study and treatment.

3. The business manager and assistant keep all the accounts of the hospital, except those in the hands of the treasurer, and purchase the groceries, provisions and supplies for the institution.

4. The farmer has charge of the agricultural operations, the butchering, preservation and distribution of meats and the delivery of freight.

5. The matron has charge of all work done in the laundry and the sewing rooms.

6. The housekeepers have charge of the ordinary domestic matters in their respective households and attend particularly to the preparation of food for the patients.

7. The supervisors have the immediate direction of the ward attendants and instruct them in their duties, such as the management of patients, the nursing of the sick, the prevention of escapes, the care of patients' clothing and the cleanliness of the wards.

8. The storekeeper, under the instruction of the business manager, takes care of the stock in store and issues supplies on requisition of housekeepers, supervisors and others, keeping due account of the same.

9. The mechanics, comprising the engineer and electrician, have charge of the heating apparatus, plumbing and gas-piping, and all electrical power and machinery.

By 1893 the Hospital buildings had increased from one to five, with capacity ranging from 250 to 675, aside from cottages, and the population of the institution had risen to 1535.

The Legislature of that year having decided to provide additional accommodations for the insane, the work of building what is now known as the north hospital was at once commenced, and about 52 acres of land were purchased from the heirs of Elisha S. Hubbard. This tract included a substantial farm house, which has since afforded accommodations for about 36 male patients. The farm extended from the northern boundary of the hospital grounds across the Valley Railway to the Connecticut River, and afforded a site for the present wharf, coal pocket, spur tracks, coal and merchandise hoisting apparatus, and shuttle railway operated by electricity, by which all coal and heavy merchandise are delivered to the hospital buildings.

The north hospital, with accommodations for 250 patients of the chronic class, was completed within the appropriation of $100,000, $70,000 of which was taken from funds in the hands of the Trustees, and $30,000 was appropriated by the Legislature. This building was scarcely complete when the urgent necessity of additional accommodations was apparent. To meet this demand the Trustees proceeded to erect an additional wing to the north hospital for the accommodation of 50 female patients, at a cost of $20,250, which was taken from Hospital funds.

This wing was no sooner completed than an equally urgent demand arose for further accommodations for male patients. This was met by the erection of a wing at the north end of the north hospital, corresponding to that erected for female patients at the south end, and contained accommodations for 50 male patients. The cost was $17,623. At the close of the fiscal year ending September 30, 1898, the census of the Hospital had risen to 1895.

In 1896 the training school for nurses and attendants was inaugurated and has continued ever since, with the exception of an interval from 1896 to 1901. During the biennial period ending September 30, 1898, several buildings of importance were added io the equipment. A mortuary building of stone and brick, with tiled roof, was erected at a cost of $6524.54. A substantial iron fence was built on the north and south sides of Silver Street in front of the main grounds. Iron verandas and fire escapes for three stories were added to the south hospital, which afford airing facilities for such patients as are unable to avail themselves of out-of-door exercise. A brick, iron, cement and glass cow barn was erected, with stabling for 100 cows, at a cost of $16,902.10.

During the following biennial period, ending with September 30, 1900, two infirmary wards, with accommodations for 70 patients each, were added to the north hospital at a cost of $6471.53. The laboratory for clinical and pathological work was established and equipped in the south end of this building, and has since proved a valuable adjunct to the scientific work of the institution. Day balconies and fire escapes, which during the winter months are enclosed in glass, were added to the main hospital at a cost of $3840.

The unprecedented drought of 1899 aroused the Trustees to the necessity of providing an additional water supply, which resulted in the building of No. 4 reservoir. This was completed in the summer of 1900 at a cost of $15,813.19, and has a capacity of 33,000,000 gallons.

During the following period from 1900 to 1902 the heating system was thoroughly reorganized, and the several detached heating plants were consolidated into one central one. The congregate building was built, comprising a congregate dining room with a capacity of 1500 persons, with kitchens, serving room, bakery, store, meat market, cold storage plant, laundry, sewing and ironing rooms, and hydrotherapeutic establishment, with a dining room for employees, at a total cost of $272,530. With the reorganization of the boiler and heating plant steam as a motive power was dispensed with, and electricity substituted. Lighting the entire institution with electricity was commenced and carried forward as rapidly as possible. Electrical power was provided for the carpenter shop, laundry, and ensilage cutters. Electric irons were provided in the ironing room. Electric elevators provided with automatic safety devices were installed in the congregate building. The steam mains for heating the south and middle hospitals and main cottage, as well as the bams and carpenter shop, were carefully insulated in earthen conduits, so as to prevent condensation. The new chimney, 141 feet in height, afforded ample draught, and the economizer and hot water heaters gave the highest percentage of return for the coal consumed. The cold storage plant, with auxiliary ice-making facilities, did excellent service, and the latter during one whole season since has supplied the Hospital with all the ice required.

During the season of 1912 the local telephone system was thoroughly overhauled and enlarged. Fifty-six stations were installed and the service handled by three operators on duty eight hours each.

During the biennial period the capacity of the south hospital was again increased to meet the ever recurring demands for more accommodations, by the erection of a three-story brick and iron addition to the north wing, 60 feet by 40 feet, containing 80 beds. The framework is of iron and the floors granolithic, covered with linoleum. These wards contain bath and toilet accommodations and communicate with the main wards of the building on the same levels through fireproof iron doors. The second and third floors are each provided with an iron veranda having an eastern exposure. These verandas serve the purpose of fire escapes, and in winter are enclosed with glass and make desirable infirmaries. The entire cost was $14,221.

The old laundry building was repaired and altered for the accommodation of female patients at a cost of $6000. Excellent accommodations were thus secured for over 100 female patients, at a cost of $68.97 Per Ded in addition to the value of the building prior to making the repairs.

On June 21, 1906, the most destructive fire in the history of the institution occurred, during which the amusement hall, chapel, dynamo, engine and tool rooms were destroyed, and for a time the center portion of the main building was in danger. Fortunately, there was no loss of life to either patients or employees.

Plans were at once completed for the erection of a thoroughly fireproof structure for engines, electrical apparatus, cold storage machinery, etc. The insurance, amounting to $30,499.04, was immediately adjusted and paid.

A municipal fire system was inaugurated, covering the entire premises by means of 24 stations, by which a repeating signal is sent to the central station, where an organized fire department is always on duty. The more hazardous localities on the premises are protected by automatic sprinklers.

Electric lighting has been gradually extended, until it now covers the entire institution.

During the biennial period ending with September 30, 1906, a new underground root and vegetable cellar was constructed, at a cost of $5983, for which no legislative appropriation was called for.

In addition the Legislature granted an appropriation of $20,000 for an isolation hospital, and the building was completed within the appropriation. It is located apart from the other hospital buildings, is thoroughly fireproof and built according to modern conceptions. It affords accommodation for 30 patients of each sex and the requisite number of nurses. It is lighted by electricity, heated by steam and provided with gas ranges for the preparation of food. To complete the equipment a large Kinyoun-Francis sterilization chamber was installed, at a cost of $1350.

The Legislature of 1906 granted an appropriation of $75,000 with which to provide a chapel or assembly room. The result was a thoroughly fireproof structure, the auditorium of which has a seating capacity of about 1400. It is connected with the main hospital, congregate dining room, middle hospital and main cottage by overhead bridges. The main floor consists of an auditorium, gallery, lobby and stage, the first two of which are provided with set opera chairs. Toilet and dressing rooms are placed at convenient points. The stage is protected from fire by automatic sprinklers and an asbestos curtain; and is furnished with ample scenery, several drop curtains, and various electrical appliances. In the basement a room has been provided for dancing. Scarcely anything other than brick, steel and concrete enters into the construction of the building. It is heated by steam and lighted by electricity, with an additional gas equipment in case of emergency. A drop curtain, pulpit and chairs effect a transformation of the stage and make it appropriate for chapel services.

The same Legislature which rendered the assembly room possible granted an appropriation of $45,000 for the purpose of building a new wharf, coal hoisting works and pocket, with an electric industrial railway for the transportation of coal and heavy merchandise from the wharf and railroad to the Hospital. A siding has been built on the Valley Division of the N. Y., N. H. & H. R. R., upon which car-load lots of merchandise are delivered and transported to the Hospital.

During the biennial period ending September 30, 1908, a mechanical filter was installed, with a capacity of 100 gallons per minute, to obviate any risk of illness from possible contamination of the water from reservoirs No. 2 and No. 5. All water supplying the institution is analyzed at regular intervals and has invariably been found free from pathogenic bacteria.

The last building to be added to the hospital equipment was the nurses' home, erected in 1909-10, for which the Legislature appropriated the sum of $75,000. This building is also fireproof, and contains comfortable quarters for over 90 employees. Twelve of the rooms in the central portion of the building are designed for married couples. Each wing provides accommodations for 35 nurses and attendants of each sex. The basement under the east, or male, wing, has been fitted up as a recreation and reading room, with billiard and card tables, magazines, periodicals, etc.

During this same biennial period the last and largest water main connecting the system of reservoirs with the Hospital buildings was laid, at a cost of $18,000, which was covered by a legislative appropriation of that amount. This main is sixteen inches in diameter and affords not only an ample supply of water for all ordinary purposes, but likewise provides increased pressure and supply in the event of fire.

The buildings constituting the institution have increased during the progress of years from one or two up to 34. The aggregate of legislative appropriations amounts to the sum of $1,470,573. Various improvements have been made from time to time, which have been paid for from the earnings of the Hospital over and above running expenses; the cost of these improvements amounts to nearly half the above mentioned sum.

Insurance is carried on the Hospital property, including buildings and contents, to the amount of $1,200,000.

The institution is now (1912) caring for 2535 patients, and has for the past two or three years been overcrowded, notwithstanding the existence of the Norwich State Hospital, with a census of about 800. Whether there will be any further expansion of the Connecticut Hospital for the Insane is problematical. It would seem to be much the wiser policy to organize a third institution in the southwest quarter of the state, rather than to continue overcrowding those already in operation.[1]

20th & 21st Century

Over the years of the hospital's operation many more buildings were built. Some time during the 20th century the administration section of the Main Building was modified pretty extensively. An additional floor was added to the building, as a result the decorative roof line was removed, causing the administration section to stand out from the rest of the building. The ground in front of the building was excavated and lowered and a new entrance was built. Half of the north wing of the Main Building has also been removed. The hospital saw its patient population increase to a max of 3000 patients in 1951 but slowly it dwindled down to about 180 in 1995. In 1961, Connecticut State Hospital changed it's name to Connecticut Valley Hospital. Currently various state services are being run out of the hospital. Some time around 2006-2007 the south "Kirkbride-like" building was demolished.


  • From the Inside Out: Connecticut State Hospital, 1954-1991, Charles A. Robbins Jr., M.D.

Images of Connecticut State Hospital

Main Image Gallery: Connecticut State Hospital


The cemetery at Connecticut Valley Hospital is located at the foot of the hill to the east of the Hospital in the middle of what was once the Hospital’s farming operation. An unpaved city road separates the first two hundred graves from the main section of the cemetery. There were 1652 persons buried here between 1878 and 1955 and the majority of the graves are identified by a simple concrete marker with only a number. These are the graves of persons anonymous to the world who died here without a family or friend to claim them and take them home. Three markers now have been erected and names, age, date of death, and stone number have been continuously added.Since 1999 there has been an annual ceremony to honor and name those buried on the grounds.

Links & Additional Information