End nears for TSH building

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241283 web new051810tsh.jpg

By Mike Hall
Created May 17, 2010 at 3:01pm
Source: Cjonline.com

A chain link fence and two big pieces of construction machinery are the first indications the historic Center Building of the former Topeka State Hospital is about to be razed.

Ron Harbaugh, spokesman for Topeka Unified School District 501, said demolition of that building and four others is set to begin "on or before June 1."

The school district is the owner of much of the former TSH property. Hummer Sports Park now occupies much of the southern end of the property fronting on S.W. 6th between MacVicar and Oakley.

Harbaugh said the buildings are being demolished because of their deteriorating condition. So far, the district hasn't identified any specific uses for the land.

Built in 1900, the Center Building housed the hospital's superintendent and its administrative offices.

According to a TSH history written in 1979 by Barbara Hauschild, creation of the "The Topeka Insane Asylum" was authorized by the Kansas Legislature in 1875 — just 14 years after Kansas became a state. Shawnee County and the city of Topeka each put up $6,000 to buy the land and the state put up the $25,000 for the construction of the first buildings. The first patient was admitted June 1, 1879.

The name was officially changed to Topeka State Hospital in 1901.

The hospital was a victim of mental health reform, a program initiated in 1990 by the Kansas Legislature. The program emphasized care and treatment of the mentally ill in community-based facilities, with services provided near their homes instead of in an institution.

A Hospital Closure Commission in October 1995 picked Topeka State as the mental institution that would be closed and selected Winfield State Hospital and Training Center as the mental retardation institution that should be shut down.

Topeka State Hospital closed May 17, 1997, after discharging most of its patients into community-based programs. Some patients who had to remain institutionalized were transferred primarily to the Osawatomie State Hospital.

Mike Hall can be reached at (785) 295-1209 or mike.hall@cjonline.com.