Clarinda State Hospital

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Clarinda State Hospital
Clarinda State Hospital
Established 1884
Construction Began 1885
Opened 1888
Closed 2015
Current Status Closed and Preserved
Building Style Transitional Kirkbride Plan
Architect(s) William Foster & Henry F. Liebbe
Location Clarinda, Iowa
Architecture Style Modern Gothic
Alternate Names
  • Clarinda Lunatic Asylum
  • Clarinda Asylum for the Insane
  • Iowa State Hospital for the Insane
  • Clarinda Mental Health Institute
  • Clarinda Treatment Complex

The Clarinda Treatment Complex was built in 1884 as the Clarinda State Hospital in Clarinda, Iowa of southwest Iowa. It was the third asylum in the state of Iowa. The original plan for patients was to hold alcoholics, geriatrics, drug addicts, mentally ill, and the criminally insane.

History (1884-1900)[edit]

The Clarinda Treatment Complex was built in 1884 as the Clarinda State Hospital in Clarinda, Iowa of southwest Iowa. It was the third asylum in the state of Iowa and remains in operation today. The original plan for patients was to hold alcoholics, geriatrics, drug addicts, mentally ill, and the criminally insane. An act of the Twentieth General Assembly of the State of Iowa, chapter 201, authorized the appropriation of $150,000 for the purpose of establishing an additional hospital for the insane. The act went into effect April 23, 1884, and provided that the Governor should select three commissioners, with power to locate the site for the hospital somewhere in Southwestern Iowa.

The act provided that not less than 320 acres of land should be purchased in the name of the state, so selected as to insure an abundant supply of good, pure water and to be susceptible of proper and efficient drainage. It was also provided that no gratuity or donation should be offered or received from any place as an inducement for its location; that the commissioners should, as soon as the location was fixed, secure and adopt plans and specifications and estimates for the buildings to be erected. All buildings to be fireproof, the exterior plain and of brick, to be built on the cottage plan; the board to invite bids after publication for 30 days in Des Moines newspapers; the contract to be let to the lowest bidder complying with the requirements of the commissioners. They were to employ a competent architect and superintendent of construction, appoint a secretary and keep accurate minutes of their doings.

The Governor appointed as commissioners the following: E. J. Hartshorn, of Palo Alto County; J. D. M. Hamilton, of Lee County, and George W. Bemis, of Buchanan County. These gentlemen met at Des Moines on May 21, 1884, and organized. George W. Bemis was elected president of the board, E. J. Hartshorn treasurer and J. D. M. Hamilton secretary.

On the 16th day of July, 1884, the commissioners met again at Des Moines for the purpose of deciding upon the site of the new hospital. They had already visited and carefully inspected every site that was being offered as a location. After two full days of deliberation these gentlemen, by a majority vote, selected Clarinda as the place combining in the fullest degree the requirements of the statute under which they acted.

Mr. Bemis resigned his position after Clarinda had been chosen as the site of the hospital and thereby progress was impeded until August, when Governor Sherman appointed George B. Van Saun, of Cedar Falls, to the vacancy thus created. On August 29 the new board convened at Clarinda and reorganized, with Mr. Van Saun as president.

In October, 1884, the commissioners purchased 513 acres of land one-half mile north of Clarinda. Upon this charming site, commanding a beautiful view of the Nodaway Valley, the hospital was built. The site is well drained and there is an abundant supply of pure water. The cost of the land was $29,425. The Pfiefer Cut Stone Company bid $10,788 for the stone work; the Dearborn Foundry Company's bid on the iron work was $22,100; G. W. Parker's bid for roofing and cornice was $3100. These bids were accepted. The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company, at its own expense, laid a switch from its St. Joseph branch line, just east of the hospital, down to the hospital.

The firm of Foster & Liebbe, of Des Moines, was engaged to design and supervise the entire structure. These men determined in the outset to enlighten the commissioners and themselves as well in the latest and best methods of hospital building. To this end they suggested an extensive tour of this country. Upon their return the outline plans were projected, submitted, criticized, remodeled and a plan was adopted.

The plan adopted is somewhat in violation of the strict letter of the act creating the hospital and is what is known as the "Corridor Connected Pavilion " plan, consisting first of a central administration building containing the official and executive departments of the institution, connecting by a rear corridor to the hospital system to the right, left and rear. At the right is the female wing, at the left the male wing and at the rear are the maintenance and operative sections. Like most of the earlier state institutions, the appropriations were so limited that only a part of the institution as designed could be erected during any biennial period. Instead of attempting to lay the entire foundation and then waiting for additional appropriations for the superstructures and so attempting the whole group at one and the same time, the wiser policy was pursued of first erecting the administration building and one wing. These were finished in advance, with temporary arrangements for heating and culinary work. Thus earlier accommodations were provided for patients sadly needing relief from the poorhouses of counties, which were worse than prisons.

On the 4th day of July, 1885, the corner-stone was laid by the Iowa Grand Lodge of Masons. The Governor was present with many other distinguished men of the state. By December, 1885, the central building and supervisor's department were under roof and one wing nearly so. In 1886 an appropriation of $103,000 was secured with which to carry forward the work. The hospital was first opened for occupation December 15, 1888, with 222 male patients received from Independence, Mt. Pleasant and Mercy hospitals.

The commissioners filed their final report and were dissolved by an act of the Twenty-second General Assembly, which at the same time created a Board of five Trustees. The first board consisted of E. J. Hartshorn, president; L. B. Raymond, secretary; J. H. Dunlap, J. D. M. Hamilton and Edward H. Hunter. These officers came into power March 14, 1888, assuming the duties and powers of the commission dissolved by the act aforesaid. The board elected L. E. Darrow treasurer. The board also elected P. W. Lewellen, M. D., of Clarinda, as the first superintendent, who selected Dr. J. M. Aiken, of Clarinda, assistant physician, M. T. Butterfield, steward, and Mrs. Alice W. Lewellen, matron.

With occupation came activity. Patients were set to work, grading, sodding, tree planting and farming.

Additional appropriations were made from session to session and in like fragmentary manner wings and wards were added year by year, until in 1897 the hospital stood complete. The first building erected was the administration building with its connecting corridors, the supervisors' section and the east wing. Next the kitchen and help's departments, then the west wing and cold storage buildings. After this the permanent boiler house and east infirmary wards and at last the west infirmary wards.

It is difficult to give an intelligent pen picture of this ample structure. Its total frontage is 1128 feet; its total depth 840 feet, with a length of extended walls of one mile and a quarter and covering many miles of floor space. It provides comfortable apartments for 1000 persons.

The style of the buildings is what is called modern Gothic, most appropriate for the material used in its construction, brick and stone with steep slated roofs and such variety of outline and form that from all points of view there is harmony with contrast, a light and shade that ever pleases the eye. The height of the buildings is generally three stories, though the administration building is four.

The structure is fireproof, being composed of brick, stone, steel, plaster, tile and cement. The hospital is especially noted for its light, secured by a judicious separating and spacing of its wings and sections. The shade of one wing does not darken the windows in the adjacent wing. No pains, especially in the newer and later wards, have been spared as regards the sanitary features. Thousands of air flues and ducts facilitate a constant circulation of pure air and by these means carry out all impure air, the latter being accelerated by numerous electric fans. The structure is amply warmed in the winter season by low pressure steam, all from the boiler house at the rear, where many large boilers afford all needed steam both for heat and power. The buildings are lighted by electricity which is generated in the dynamo room at the rear. Good, wholesome water is obtained by a steam-driven deep-well pump and a chain of storage cisterns, besides numerous soft water cisterns. There are infirmary wards with circular bay dormitories, large open fire places and toilet arrangements.

Various industries have been a prominent feature in the economy of this hospital. Thus there has been continually in operation for a number of years a department for the manufacture of clothing. Here all clothing worn by the patients, both men and women, is made, with the exception of white dress shirts for the men and hose and hats. Cloth and material are bought in large quantities by the bolt and are cut by a tailoress and made into clothing under her supervision by several assistants and a number of patients. Clothing not sufficiently worn to be condemned is repaired and put in a suitable condition for further use. A second very satisfactory industrial department is the shoe shop, where all the footwear for both men and women is manufactured under the direction and supervision of a shoemaker, who is assisted by patients who have a liking and aptitude for that class of work. Another industry is that of wood working, where furniture of various kinds is made and repaired; This is located in a separate building, and here under the supervision of a foreman some 12 to 25 convalescing or mildly disordered patients may be seen every week day busily engaged in planing, scraping, matching and manufacturing all sorts of wooden articles and useful pieces of furniture. A simple, modest equipment of machinery is installed in this place and is used to good advantage.

In connection with this industrial building is a broom-making department, where all the brooms needed for the hospital are manufactured. The only thing bought is the twine wire and occasionally broom handles, which, however, are used over and over again until" practically worn out. Broom corn is raised on the farm and usually a two-years' supply is laid in stock.

A mattress making department is also connected with this building, where in a separate room all the new mattresses used in the institution are made. Mattress hair is bought and also a good quality of material for the cover, which is made up in the sewing room and afterwards filled by patients, who become quite expert in the making of mattresses and who work under the supervision of the foreman of the industrial building. Soiled or worn mattresses in which the hair has become packed are taken apart, thoroughly renovated by steam, dried, thoroughly picked and the hair used over again. Part of the time a tin shop is operated in connection with the industrial building, although it is located in a different building, and the needed repairs to the tinware of the institution are made, but the manufacture of new tinware has not been attempted to any considerable extent.

In the amusement hall chapel services are held each Sabbath and frequent plays performed for the benefit of the inmates. Performances are put upon the stage by the talent of the institution; the medical staff, below the superintendent, frequently participating and the attendants nearly always taking some part. There are frequent dances in this hall to exhilarate and enliven the many patients who engage in the amusement. The hospital band has for years been the pride of the hospital and of the town as well.

Dr. P. W. Lewellen was the first superintendent. On December 31, 1892, he resigned his position. Dr. Frank C. Hoyt was his successor. The board brought him from St. Joseph, Mo., where he had found wide experience in the hospitals of that state. He resigned his position on September 30, 1898, in order to take up a cherished project in Chicago, and the board selected Dr. Max E. Witte, of Mt. Pleasant, as his successor. Since October 1, 1898, Dr. Witte has filled the place to the entire satisfaction of the state.

On the 1st of July, 1898, the Clarinda State Hospital was put under the charge of the Board of Control of State Institutions.

The institution at that time had a capacity and population of 811 patients, and this number was rapidly increasing from year to year so that an increase in capacity became necessary. This has since been furnished by the erection of two large fireproof cottages; one for men (South View Cottage), with a capacity of 104, and another for women, with a capacity of 100. These cottages have served their purpose well, are of sightly appearance and pleasing construction, and conveniently arranged so that they meet the needs of a certain class of patients in an admirable manner; besides this, the state acquired land about three-fourths of a mile distant from the institution, where a fireproof cottage (Willowdale), with a capacity of 40 patients, has been constructed and is maintained and operated much on the plan of "Graycroft" at Utica, N. Y. For convenience, greater comfort and efficiency, many improvements and alterations have been made in the main building in the way of installation of more modern machinery for the purpose of lighting, ventilating and more efficient heating of the institution, besides a plant for the manufacture of artificial ice and refrigeration for all necessary cold storage needs.

Various little industries were early installed at this institution and have been maintained with pleasure and benefit to patients as well as economy in the administration of the institution.

Profitable and pleasant employment and recreation are provided as largely as possible for all patients who can thus be benefited ; and this being above everything else an agricultural state, most of the male patients find helpful employment about the farm, gardens, green-house and the various stables. This is not only primarily a matter of paramount importance as a diversion for the patients, but often proves remedial; besides its economical value is not inconsiderable. The institution supplies all its needs in garden vegetables, with the exception perhaps of potatoes, of which article additional purchases are often necessary. It produces all the milk, fresh pork and lard consumed at the institution, besides a share of the poultry required.

The farm land belonging to the State Hospital at Clarinda, in 1898, consisted of some 500 acres. This has been increased to 860 acres by purchase; and barns, stables and other means have been added to ensure a more successful administration of hospital affairs. The grounds in the immediate vicinity of the hospital buildings have been beautified according to a consistent and artistic plan, so that the surroundings are more pleasing and beautiful than ever before and bid to be more so in the future.

Patients are committed to the hospital without previous consultation of hospital authorities. Upon entrance all patients, irrespective of conditions, are confined to bed for a few days at least until physicians and nurses can be more familiar with the patient. They are also, within the first few days of their admission, carefully examined as to their physical and mental or nervous disorders or anything abnormal which presents itself. Where the history accompanying the patient is defective it is endeavored to obtain further information from friends and correspondents and others who may have knowledge pertaining to the patient's previous life. The history of each individual patient is kept up and memoranda made at stated intervals and as much oftener as changes in the patient's condition may render it desirable.

Patients are classified according to condition. The acute are cared for in specially equipped wards by nurses who are selected for the requirements of the ward for disturbed and acute cases. The sick are maintained in a regular hospital ward for the sick employees. The infirm are kept on special wards and those on the men's side are in charge of women nurses. The tubercular patients are cared for in special rooms on certain wards. An appropriation has been asked for the erection of a regular tuberculosis pavilion and also for a special building with a capacity of 200 for new and disturbed patients of both sexes. There are maintained for each sex special wards for the care of epileptic patients.

The training school for nurses was organized in the early 1890's and has been maintained ever since. A three-years' course of eight months of theoretical and practical instruction, which includes general and surgical nursing as well as that peculiar to mental disorders, is maintained and satisfactory work and successful passing of a searching examination is rewarded with a diploma as graduate nurse. This diploma is accepted by the State Board of Health and permits the holder to come up for examination, although it is usually advised that a short service in a hospital with practical obstetrics be taken.

The general spirit of the institution is to have the asylum idea as much in the background as possible and to supply surroundings and influences as much like those at home as can be made. In this connection a farm cottage with a capacity of 50 patients is maintained, distant three-fourths of a mile from the main structure.[1]

Staff from 1909-1910:

  • Superintendent-MAX E. WITTE, M.D.
  • First Assistant Physician-M. CHARLES MACKIN, M.D.
  • Second Assistant Physician-ROY MOON, M.D.
  • Third Assistant Physician-
  • Fourth Assistant Physician-
  • Woman Physician-PAULINE LEADER, M.D.
  • Steward-JOHN W. PAYNE
  • Matron-MARY E. COATS

Present State[edit]

The hospital is currently known as the Clarinda Treatment Center. The CTC has evolved into a multi- functional state facility that now includes a mental hospital and a correctional facility that share many services with the privately owned Clarinda Academy. The original central building still remains in use as part of hospital complex. In 1980 a minimum security all male prison was built as the Clarinda Correctional Facility and another 750 bed medium security prison was opened on the Campus in 1996. A museum was recently added to the complex and is full of historical asylum artifacts such as medical equipment, paperwork, furniture, photos and other relics. In 1980, a large minimum security prison was built as the Clarinda Correctional Facility.[2]

The hospital was closed by Governor Branstad along with Mount Pleasant State Hospital in July, 2015. The Clarinda location has the Clarinda Academy, a privately run school for troubled adolescents, which will continue to operate there for the time being.[3]

Images of Clarinda State Hospital[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Clarinda State Hospital


The cemetery is located about a quarter of a mile from the main building between a large cornfield and a cow pasture. There are over 1,200 graves and most have markers with names.