Faribault State School

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Faribault State School
Established 1877
Opened 1879
Closed 1998
Current Status Closed and Preserved
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location faribault, MN
Peak Patient Population 3,355 in 1955
Alternate Names
  • Minnesota Experimental School for Imbeciles (1879)
  • School for Idiots and Imbeciles (1881)
  • School for the Feeble-Minded (1885)
  • Minnesota School for Feeble-Minded and Colony for Epileptics (1906)
  • Minnesota School for Feeble-Minded (1927)
  • Minnesota School and Colony (1949)
  • Faribault State School and Hospital (1955)
  • Faribault Regional Center (1985)


The Minnesota state legislature authorized the board of directors of the Minnesota Institute for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind to open in 1879 an experimental department for "idiotic and feeble-minded children". In July of that year, a class was organized of fifteen children transferred from the Rochester and St. Peter state hospitals. Nine boys and five girls were transferred to the Experimental School from the st. Peter Hospital for the Insane. In the next year and a half eleven additional students were received from the St.Peter and Rochester hospitals for the insane or from their own homes. In 1881, the legislature directed that the School for Idiots and Imbeciles was no longer an experimental program and was to be connected with the Minnesota Institute for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind.

When the school opened it performed the functions of a school, a home, and a hospital. The three distinct departments were the School and Training Department, Custodial or Home Department, and Epileptic Hospital. In its later years, its functions included reducing the dependencies of mentally retarded individuals; providing care, treatment, and training for the purpose of returning persons to as normal a life as possible; assisting families in coping with the problems of mental retardation; fostering public understanding and involvement; promoting development and use of community services; and conducting research into causes, prevention, and treatment of mental retardation. The patient population consisted of persons of all ages representing all types and degrees of mental retardation, many of whom were also physically infirm.

May 20, 1881 a contract was let for construction of the new building, to be located south of the School for the Blind on land once owned by Alexander Faribault. The building consisted of a 3-story main section and a 2-story annex to the south, with a basement extending the entire length. (In later years the building was further extended to the south by the addition of a central tower and two sections.similar to the original two.) The following February fifty students moved into what was later to be called Center Building or Main Building. 1883 The superintendent's second biennial report indicated there were 41 students in the school and 59 applications pending. Annual total expenditures for the school had been $8,469 in 1881 and $10,055 in 1882. Dr. Knight recommended employment of a kindergarten teacher and need for a shop to provide "useful occupation. If The charge to parents or counties of students was set at $40 per year. In 1884 A contract was let for an addition to Center Building to bring its capacity to about 100. A tower and 3-story section were to be built.

In 1894 "Sunnyside" was first occupied as a distinct custodial or asylum building for those children unable to profit by schoolroom training. The corresponding building, known as "Skinner Hall," was constructed in 1896 and named in honor of George E. Skinner, of St. Paul, a former trustee of the institution and whose influence had been exerted strongly in support of a better classification of the inmates, realized by the construction of these buildings. The original administration "building with the various additions thereto since 1881 has been devoted to the work of school training.

A corps of twenty teachers conduct a well organized school in which manual and industrial training axe predominant features. For the girls there is training in netting, basketry, plain and fancy sewing as well as mending and darning, lace making, ironing, domestic work and gardening. And to the trained girls comes the opportunity to do work for which each has an aptitude. Such helpers, often quite independent, are found in the dressmaking and tailor shops, in mending room, kitchen and dining room, in the laundry and at the chicken ranch. While boys who are schooled in netting, basketry, sloyd work, mat braiding and sewing, and brush making later become valuable helpers in the care of their own departments, at the institution, mattress and cabinet shops, the barn, laundry, greenhouse, garden, farm and dairy.

March 1, 1900 A 40-bed hospital was opened. It was smaller than Dr. Rogers had requested, but south and east wings were added in the next few years. After a much larger hospital was built in 1938, the old hospital was re-named Oaks. In 1900 the first building distinctively for epileptics was erected as the beginning of the epileptic colony, which now has five cottages devoted to the care of this class of patients. Lind Cottage for epileptic boys was opened March 17, 1901. It was situated southwest of Springdale and was to be the start of a Colony for Epileptics. In 1902, A second cottage (Glen) at the Epileptic Colony was opened, all wing discontinuation of the program for epileptic males that had been known as "The Retreat." That same year a cottage for 60 epileptic girls (Skinner Hall Annex 1, later renamed Iris) was built northeast of Skinner Hall. A U. S. Post Office substation ("Station A") was installed in the tower b:3sement of the Center Building. About 100 "children" were taken to the State Fair. The population had climbed to 887, but almost 1/4 (201) were on vacation on June 30.

December 20, 1902 A fire burned the roof and attic of the middle section of Center Building. The city fire department responded promptly, but there was a lack of water pressure. A messenger was dispatched to the School for the Deaf, whereupon the engineer there started the fire pump and "gave us sufficient water pressure to enable the firemen to quickly control the flames." After the fire the entrance to the tower section of the building was moved from the east to the north side and offices for the superintendent and physicians were constructed above the former entrance. In 1904 a second Skinner Hall Annex for 60 females (later named Daisy), and an Annex to Sunnyside with a capacity for fifty persons (named Pawnee in recent years), were opened. The assembly hall in the main building was reconstructed; the roof and walls were raised, horseshoe-shaped "gallery" (balcony) was added, and the porches enclosed to provide interior corridors. Seating capacity in the hall exceeded 500.

The first burial of a resident took place in the institution's cemetery south of the main campus May 13, 1905. Previously those who died while in residence had been buried either in Faribault or in their home community.

The institution served the entire state until the mid-1950s, with a peak population of 3,355 in 1955. It then became a receiving institution serving 28 counties. Just prior to its closing, it served the counties of Hennepin, Dakota, Rice, Steele and Freeborn, but individuals from a number of other counties were still in residence.[1]



  1. Information from: placeography.org