Camden County Hospital for the Insane

From Asylum Projects
Jump to: navigation, search
Camden County Insane Asylum
Established April 13, 1878
Opened January 27, 1879
Closed 1998
Current Status Closed
Building Style Single Building
Architect(s) Enoch Allen Ward (1879 building)
Location Blackwood, NJ
Alternate Names
  • Camden County Hospital for the Insane
  • Camden County Insane Asylum at Blackwood
  • Camden County Insane Hospital at Lakeland
  • Camden County Health Services Center


Camden county admitted it's first mental patient to county care in 1803. As was usual at the time the insane were cared for in the county almshouse, usually in separate cells or small separate buildings. Originally in Camden the insane were maintained in the almshouse building, however a dozen years after this first admittance the County Freeholders decided it was prudent to erect a separate building for the insane, still under administration of the almshouse. This building was a two story wood framed structure comprised of individual cells and was referred to as the "mad house". After her 1839 visit Dorothea Dix referred to it as "populous with imbecile, insane and epileptic patients -- 25-30 individuals. [It] contains ranges of small cells altogether unfit for the individuals they house." Also recorded at this time is the apparent use of "Ravine Cells". According to first person accounts some of the earliest Blackwood facilities were "barn-like" cells running along the ravine and fitted with small doors.

The most disturbed patients were housed in confinement cages on the ground floor; the second floor was for the less disturbed; and the third floor would house the asylum's steward or matron and their families. This was at a time when the superintendent earned $800/year and the weekly cost to house a patient was $1.50. This new facility was known as the Camden County Insane Asylum at Blackwood.

Over the next 47 years, additions and improvements were made to the original brick structure until, by 1925, the asylum had grown to include a nurses' residence; an admission building where new patients were examined and observed; and a service bridge across the ravine connecting the old brick asylum to the new admission building. At the same time, Timber Creek was dammed, providing a scenic lake and giving the facility its new name: The Camden County Insane Hospital at Lakeland.

From the 1960s through the 1980s, Lakeland was rocked by charges of inefficient operations, the ups and downs of political uncertainties and negative community perceptions. By 1998 the decision was made to consolidate county operations into a single, modern facility occupying 226,000 square feet. Today that sprawling complex at Lakeland is known as the Camden County Health Services Center, part of which is a modern, 158-bed Behavioral Health facility that, along with Ancora Psychiatric Hospital, provides state-of-the-art psychiatric care for the residents of Camden County.