Glenwood State School

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Glenwood State School
Construction Began 1866
Opened 1877
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Glenwood, IA
Alternate Names
  • Civil War Orphan's Home
  • Glenwood Orphan's Home
  • Iowa Institution for Feeble Minded Children
  • Glenwood State Hospital School
  • Glenwood Resource Center


The Iowa Institution for Feeble Minded Children was a psychiatric hospital for the treatment of mental retardation located in the Loess Hills adjacent to Glenwood, Iowa.

In 1866, Glenwood was selected as the location of a new state-funded Civil War Orphan's Home following the donation of 15 acres (61,000 m2) by community residents. One of the most notable residents of the orphan home was baseball player and evangelist Billy Sunday. The institution later closed in early 1876.

In March 1876 the Iowa legislature designated the grounds of the former Glenwood Orphan's Home as the location for the first Iowa Asylum for Feeble Minded Children. Canadian immigrant Dr. O.W. Archibald was appointed the first Medical Superintendent and the facility opened on September 1. Archibald's 1877 Annual Report listed 85 children and crowded conditions. It then became the Iowa Institution for Feeble Minded Children and Dr. J.A. Donelan was hired in 1879 as the first "consulting physician".

In 1882 Dr. Archibald was replaced as Medical Superintendent by Dr. Francis Marion Powell. At the time of Powell's appointment the institution consisted of the buildings of the Orphan's Home, a 160-acre (0.65 km2) farm, and an additional 20 acres (81,000 m2). In 1884 the Administration Building was constructed based on several principles of the Kirkbride Plan. Also, age restrictions were abolished with the creation of a new Custodial Division and by 1886 the institution was home to 259 people. Additional buildings were constructed as the grounds expanded and the resident population grew to 815 people by 1899.

In 1902 the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad relocated and double-tracked the rail line through Glenwood and cut across the grounds of the institution. In 1903 a tornado struck the facility, killing two children and damaging several buildings.

Dr. Powell resigned in 1903 and was replaced by his former Chief Assistant, English immigrant Dr. George Mogridge. The institution would expand to over 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) during Dr. Mogride's 31 years as Superintendent as it became its own self-contained community isolated from the rest of Glenwood by a wrought iron fence. By 1908 the resident population numbered 1,100 people overseen by a staff of 175 employees.

During the 1930s the institution was described by the WPA Southwestern Iowa Guide as a "group of modern structures, beautifully landscaped grounds, farm tracts, orchards, and gardens, all tended by those admitted to the institution." The Guide listed a staff of 20 teachers and 1,814 patients, including 623 children.

Dr. Mogridge retired in 1935 and was replaced by Dr. Harold Dye the next year. In 1939 Dye would help conduct a landmark psychological experiment using residents of the institution and was also replaced as Superintendent at Glenwood by Dr. Thomas Lacey. Dr. Lacey had been serving as the Assistant Superintendent since 1911 and the facility's name was changed to the Glenwood State Hospital School. Following Dr. Lacey's death in 1944 Dr. VJ Meyer was named Superintendent. By 1952 the facility covered 1,185 acres (4.80 km2), including 85 acres (340,000 m2) of gardens, 64 acres (260,000 m2) of orchards, and pasture for the 223 dairy cattle. The resident population was 1,968 people with 310 employees.

Following Dr. Meyer's retirement Alfred Sasser was appointed Superintendent. Sasser arrived in 1957 and soon changed the facility forever. In September 1957 the new Superintendent hosted "State School Day" and opened the campus to the public during the dedication of the Meyer School Building. Controversy soon developed after it was revealed in the November 17, 1957 Des Moines Register that resident Mayo Buckner had spent 59 years confined to the facility with a 120 I.Q.. Further attention was attracted to Glenwood by an article on the facility in the December 1957 Time magazine and the March 1958 issue of Life Magazine. The Life article included photographs of the "side room" closets where those that misbehaved were forced to remain naked while a light-bulb burned 24 hours a day. The aroused business community of Glenwood responded by revealing that Sasser had lied on his application about having attained a doctorate degree. Sasser resigned in March 1959 and the subject of his tenure at Glenwood was dramatized on television during a December 1959 episode of the Armstrong Theater.

Dr. Peter Peffer served as Superintendent at the Glenwood State Hospital School from 1959 until 1961. Dr. J. Cromwell served as Acting Superintendent until 1964 when Dr. Leonard Lavis was appointed. Dr. Lavis resigned in 1969 and was replaced by Dr. William Campbell. Under Dr. Campbell the Glenwood State Hospital School lost much of its institutional character as the traditional ward-style housing was replaced by individual cottages. Staffing was also greatly expanded during the 1970s and Local 29991 of AFSCME was organized.

In the early 21st century the facility was renamed the Glenwood Resource Center. The resident population numbered almost 400 people with close to 850 employees.[1]



The following nearly thirty minute video on Glenwood State School created by Ray Stewart of WOI-TV Ames, Iowa along with Iowa State University. It is part of the "In Our Care," a 13 week series of documentaries filmed inside Iowa's state institutions. The series won the 1952 National Sylvania Television Award for Production Excellence. The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities is responsible for uploading it to YouTube.