Waukesha County Poor House and Asylum for the Insane

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Waukesha County Poor House and Asylum for the Insane
Established 1857?
Opened 1874
Demolished demolished
Architect(s) single building/cottage plan
Alternate Names Waukesha County Asylum for the Chronic Insane and County Home, Waukesha County Home and Hospital


The first non-county run poor house in this area existed sometime prior to 1857 when individual counties in the area banded together to take care of the poor and insane in the area. Much of the care was done contractually until the counties decided to take over and pay for the care of those in need through taxes levied by the county. Prior to 1880 Waukesha was one of the first counties in the state of Wisconsin to have an asylum and poor house run by the township. As the burden of the cost of paying for the care for the poor and insane became excessive, the county taxation system stepped in and took over the running of the facility and all patients were moved from the prior facility to the new Insane asylum and poor farm.

The first paupers in the area recorded as being cared for by a separate individual were cared for by a Matthew Wright sometime prior to 1857. In 1866 the Township took over the care of individuals with mental health issues and the poor with no means of support and contracted for their care with a Mr. McNaughton of Vernon, WI. Eventually the care of the patients in his charge became too large a burden to be done in the existing facilities and it was decided that a new asylum and poor farm was needed. Mr. McNaughton sold his farm and the buildings on it to the township and a brick and mortar asylum was built in 1874.

In 1902 it was decided by the state legislature that the care of the poor and insane should be taken over by the county and paid for through taxes levied by the county. Plans for a new asylum and poor house designed by Van Ryne and De Gelleke, of Milwaukee, Wis were selected and May 12, 1902, bids were opened for construction of the building. The contract for the building was awarded to Dwinnell and Laughlin, while Michael Gleason was hired to do the masonry work. Construction on the new facility was completed in 1904. This new facility appears to have largely been used for those patients deemed insane, with the poor being sent to another facility that was separated from the asylum. Use of the facility appears to have run until some time around 1951 when the last burial is noted to have occurred.