Gallipolis Epileptic Hospital

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Gallipolis Epileptic Hospital
Established April 11, 1890
Construction Began November 12, 1891
Opened November 30, 1893
Closed 1976
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Gallipolis, Ohio
Alternate Names
  • The Asylum for Epileptics and Epileptic Insane
  • The Ohio Hospital for Epileptics


Between the determined efforts of the Board of State Charities of Ohio and the persistent individual endeavors of its members, the Ohio Hospital for epileptics at Gallipolis, Ohio was founded. It was the first of its kind in America, and the pioneer of all others in the world in having been owned and run by the state, and therefore from public revenues. The statistics obtained by the Board of State Charities and repeatedly presented to the different Legislatures, made it evident the prevalence of epilepsy within the state. It was shown that in 1890 there were 7000 epileptic residents in the state, a ratio of 1 epileptic for every 500 people living in the state. It was also shown that, while many were safely cared for by relatives, others were at large, distressing their neighbors, or were crowded in insane hospitals, infirmaries and jails, creating conditions and environments unsuited and unjust to the epileptics to be properly cared for. Plus their presence within these institutions were detrimental to the care of the other residents also residing in these places.

Prompted by the investigations and recommendations of the Board of State Charities, the General Assembly passed an act, April 11, 1890, creating a commission empowered to investigate and determine the best possible methods of caring for the epileptic and epileptic insane; to adopt plans in accordance with this object, and to select a site for such an asylum accommodating 1000 patients. The members of the commission, Col. John L. Vance, C. C. Wait and C. F. Bonnell, visited and duly considered the various locations offered, and decided that the one at Gallipolis, Ohio, combined the greatest number of advantages.

The site consists of a natural plateau, above flood stage of the Ohio River, perfectly drained, and splendidly protected by the surrounding hills. At the rear are beautifully wooded hills containing valuable coal and stone deposits, while in front the site overlooks the Ohio River and its narrow valley, which separates it from the rugged hills of West Virginia. After considering the natural advantages of the proposed site as regarded healthfulness, drainage and protection, the ease with which a water system could be installed, the fact that practically no grading would be necessary, the presence of excellent building stone, sand, gravel and coal within its borders, the commission recommended it as an ideal location for an asylum.

The commission consulted the foremost neurologists and alienists, at home and abroad, especially those experienced in the treatment of epilepsy, and submitted plans for the construction of 36 buildings for the segregation of epileptics in classified colonies, after the method of the Bielefeld Colony in Germany, as the best adapted for the welfare and treatment of those affected with epilepsy. Later, in further compliance with the act creating the commission, a Board of Trustees was appointed, who approved the plans and let contracts for the erection of the asylum.

The first appropriation for $40,000 was passed March 4, 1891, with which three stone residence buildings were begun, the cornerstone of the first being laid November 12, 1891, with appropriate ceremonials. In 1892 the General Assembly passed an act changing the name of the institution from " The Asylum for Epileptics and Epileptic Insane " to " The Ohio Hospital for Epileptics." The three cottages begun in 1891 were completed and opened :orthereception of patients November 30, 1893. Dr. H. C. Rutter, an alienist of reputation, was appointed superintendent, and under his skillful management the hospital made rapid progress.

In November, 1894, there were 351 patients, nine stone residence cottages, a kitchen and bakery building and boiler house completed, ind a dining room and two cottages in course of construction, at aggregate cost of $376,341. Since 1894 the institution has had J steady growth. The acreage has been increased to 459 acres, <bont one-third of which is in farm land, and buildings have been tdded until the hospital now consists of 42 buildings, exclusive of small structures. The buildings are divided into five main groups, consisting of the administrative group, the east group, the west group, the insane wards and the farm group. The administrative group consists of the administration building, two congregate dining rooms, two industrial buildings, power, heating and lighting plant, ice plant, kitchen and bakery, and cold storage.

The east group consists of 13 cottages containing 15 wards for 805 male patients and is subdivided into an inner colony accommodating those patients evidencing the advance of dementia and those needing hospital or custodial care, and an outer colony for those patients who have a better mental and social status; who crave more homelike surroundings and greater privacy, and in whom the benefits of such surroundings would favor their contentment and possible recovery. The west group consists of 10 cottages containing 12 wards accommodating 670 female patients, and is also subdivided into inner and outer colonies, corresponding in classification to those of the east group. The north group, removed one-half mile from other residence cottages, accommodates 200 insane; 100 of each sex.

The farm group, about one-half mile from the other group, is a substantial cottage, colonizing 32 epileptic males, who, other than their epilepsy, are healthy and render valuable service as farm laborers. Nearby is the dairy, a comparatively new acquisition, which offers a proper occupation to many patients. In addition to the dairy proper, there is a residence for the dairyman and swineherd, a residence for other employees, a storage house, a storage barn for feed and agricultural machinery, silos, horse barns, exclusive of shelter for cattle, poultry and swine.

The estimated value of the whole plant is $1,000,000. There have been five superintendents of the hospital in the course of its existence, who have presided over its affairs for varying lengths of service: Dr. H. C. Rutter, from August, 1893, to August, 1901 Dr. W. K. Coleman, from September, 1901, to May, 1902; Dr. A. P. Ohlmacher, from July, 1902, to February, 1903; Dr. W. H Pritchard, from February, 1903, to May, 1911; Dr. G. G. Kineon from May, 1911, to present time.

Twenty-three physicians have had the medical care of patient; and otherwise assisted the management, their length of service varying from one to eight years.

Until August 15, 1911, the hospital had been controlled by a board of five trustees appointed by the Governor for terms o: from one to four years. By an act of the Legislature of 1910-11 this board was abolished, and a Central Board of Administration created having control of all state benevolent institutions.

As of April 1912 there was an enrollment of 1475 patients with a daily average of 1421 present; including officers and administrative assistants, there are 236 employees variously in charge of patients and work. The institution is filled to its capacity and further crowding would create unhygienic conditions. A plan for the erection of additional buildings should be adopted, as it would be an economical measure to provide for those epileptics now confined in insane hospitals of the state, as well as those on the waiting list of the hospital.

The colonization plan, in the light of past experience, is more than ever to be commended, as being the ideal one in the modern care of epileptics. The patients are for the most part contented and acquiesce readily and cheerfully to any reasonable disciplinary regimen, and sympathy prevails between officers, employees and patients. Improved methods of preparation of food are used; a suitable diet is furnished; a reasonable amount of work is required, and amusements and recreation are encouraged and supplied.

As the institution grows in years and numbers, the number annually discharged as recovered becomes fewer, owing to the fact that the hospital has no longer selected cases alone to deal with; that many of those longest on the hospital register have progressed to an epileptic dementia, the final goal to which epilepsy tends; that many cases previously discharged were those in which correct methods of living had resulted in a temporary cessation of attacks, or were questionable cases of idiopathic epilepsy and should have been classified as hysteria, malingering, renal or cardiac affections or functional or organic changes in the nervous system with epileptic seizures.

At the inception of the institution those most closely interested in it, as well as the medical profession in general, and most of all, the unfortunate epileptic people of the state, were optimistic of the benefits which were to follow and with reason. It was hoped that the opportunity for observation and careful, painstaking examination of the epileptic under all circumstances might result in discovering a cause for this obscure disease and suggesting methods for combating it. To this end Dr. C. H. Clark and Dr. Richard O'Connell were appointed to the medical staff to direct the medical work, and Dr. B. M. Bolton, associate professor of bacteriology of Johns Hopkins University, was placed in charge of the laboratory to cooperate with the physicians. Later Dr. Bliele, of the Ohio State University, assumed the directorship of the laboratory and much valuable work was done on the excreta of epileptics. No definite variations in the proportion of urinary constituents symptomatic of epilepsy were found, but from the excreta following seizures a body or bodies were obtained which, when administered to animals in small quantities, produced convulsive seizures.

Dr. A. P. Ohlmacher succeeded Dr. Bliele and did much valuable original research work, especially on the thymus and lymphatic glands. His painstaking histologic studies and investigations of the pathological anatomy of epilepsy have been valuable contributions to the literature of the subject, but have not suggested profitable avenues of study or treatment.

By an act of the Legislature $5000 was appropriated for the investigation and study of epilepsy. For many reasons the work was not taken up as soon as the funds became available, but in the following year new equipment was added and the laboratory placed under the non-resident directorship of Dr. Walter H. Buhlig, of Northwestern University, of Chicago, with Dr. Mary L. Austin, of the hospital staff, in immediate charge. The problem undertaken was a study of metabolism in epileptics, beginning with nitrogenous metabolism in selected groups of similar ages. The work has been carefully done on several groups, but until all have been covered it is undesirable to draw conclusions. Incidental to the above work a substance resembling pentose was found with moderate frequency in the urines, which may prove to bear a causal relation to epilepsy. At all times the laboratory is in use for clinical and diagnostic purposes, and to this availability and the vigilance of the staff is due the fact that epidemics and contagious diseases in general are practically unknown in the institution. The mortality reports show that death is due in the large majority of cases to epilepsy and its legitimate sequel.

New and old treatments have been given careful consideration Bromides are given more than any other one remedy, but by nc means in all cases. Dietary measures, hydrotherapy, crotalin calcium lactate, venesections, salvarsan, intraspinal administration of sodium and magnesium salts have failed or at best have resulted only in an improvement, and very rarely in even an apparent cure[1]

The Ohio Hospital for Epileptics closed in 1976. The hospitals buildings no longer exist, with the exception of two sandstone water towers, which inmates from the Ohio Penitentiary constructed for the hospital’s use. The towers are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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