Kalamazoo State Hospital
|Kalamazoo State Hospital|
|Building Style||Kirkbride Plan (Demolished)|
|Alternate Names||Western Michigan Asylum,|
Michigan Asylum for the Insane,
The choice of Kalamazoo as the location for the Michigan Asylum at Kalamazoo was helped by the fact that the governor was Epaphroditus Ransom, who once resided in Kalamazoo. Although the asylum was originally planned for a site in what is now the Stuart neighborhood, it was decided that this location was too close to downtown. So planners instead chose to place the hospital far out in the country, where they would never be bothered by these people. That location was on what is now Oakland Drive, where the hospital is still located.
The asylum was on the cutting edge of many forms of treatment. Through its close proximity to town, it was able to establish an innovative outpatient clinic in 1916 as well as a unique "family-care" program that placed patients in certified homes. The hospital also made use of colony farms, adjunct properties on which patients with milder illnesses — and those who today might be considered developmentally delayed — lived in familial farm settings. (One of these was near Kalamazoo's Asylum Lake.) They often raised livestock and produce for use at the hospital. The farms are examples of the limited treatment options for the mentally ill that were available before the 1950s. Electroshock therapy, insulin-induced comas and some barbiturate drugs resulted in limited reversals in thoughts and behavior of patients, he said.
Then the world began to change. Narcoleptic or anti psychotic drugs, such as Thorazine, that would revolutionize psychiatric treatment and the role of psychiatric hospitals in society. Patients who had been in the hospital for decades were suddenly responsive, able to care for themselves, and moving back to live with their families. By 1987, the number of patients had dropped to 550.
In response to a 1963 congressional joint commission on mental health, states began looking at ways to dismantle large psychiatric hospitals in favor of a community-based mental health system. Michigan established its mental health code in 1974. With these medical and social changes, the Kalamazoo hospital began to literally recede on the community horizon. Buildings were closed, then razed. The hospital campus was once home to almost 80 buildings. Today, fewer than a dozen buildings exist.
Today (2008) there are only 2 original buildings still standing on the campus. The water tower was constructed in 1895 and quickly became a local landmark. It played prominently in the history of the city. The other is the "gate cottage" situated near Oakland Drive at the entrance to the hospital grounds. The gatehouse is "carpenter gothic" in style, featuring board and batten siding, a steep roof and "gingerbread" ornamentation. The house has been furnished with Victorian furniture and serves as a museum. When first built, it was used as the porter's residence and later housed a dozen women patients for a time.
1854 — Construction of the Michigan Asylum at Kalamazoo begins.
1859 — The Michigan Asylum formally opens on Aug. 29.
1888 — The Colony Farm System for the mentally ill is established, with Brook Farm on Douglas Avenue the first farm colony in America.
1910 — Mechanical restraints are abolished, and occupational therapy is recognized as a treatment program.
1911 — The name is changed to Kalamazoo State Hospital.
1916 — An outpatient clinic is established at Vine Street School.
1931 — Public Act 281 of 1929 directs the sterilization of patients as a measure for preventing mental illness. Sterilizations are performed that year.
1939 — The Male Department Kirkbride is demolished
1958 — Farming operations are discontinued, and patients are transferred to the main hospital buildings.
1960 — The number of patients begins a rapid decline because of the introduction of narcoleptic drugs and the move toward community care and treatment.
1939 — The Female Department Kirkbride is demolished
1974 — Michigan Mental Health Code is enacted.
1976 — Name of hospital is changed to Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital.
1995 — Name of hospital is changed to Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital.
2007 — All but about 100 acres of the nearly 1,500 acres of land once owned by the hospital's main campus and Brook Colony Farm are transferred to Western Michigan University