Gowanda State Hospital

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Gowanda State Hospital
Established 1894
Opened 1898
Current Status Preserved
Building Style Echelon Plan
Architect(s) Esenwein & Johnson
Location Gowanda, NY
Peak Patient Population 4,000 1946-52
Alternate Names
  • Gowanda State Homeopathic Hospital
  • Gowanda Correctional Facility (Current)



History[edit]

Gowanda State Hospital was built by the architectural firm of Esenwein and Johnson who had an architectural practice in Buffalo, New York. The firm was administered by August Carl Esenwein (1856 – 1926) and James Addison Johnson (1865 –1939). They were the architects for Gowanda State Hospital from 1896 to 1912. Gowanda Osteopathic Hospital opened its first building in 1896 upon the 500 acre tract removed from the Taylor Farm by the state of New York. Taylor had previously bequested this acreage to his many nieces and nephews.

Gowanda State Homeopathic Hospital West Group was described in the 1930s as having 1,254 beds, having treated 1,429 patients that year by 6 house staff, with the result of a history of 4.1% deaths. There are also 10 homeopathic physicians working as consultants from the western New York area. Patients were treated under strict Homeopathic auspices. The medical complex consisted of two-story wings projecting from the main building, two three-story pavilion style buildings, two pavilions for patients with tuberculosis (TB), power house, laundry, kitchen, main dining room building, and smaller dining rooms in several buildings, farm, workshops, nurses home, store room, amusement hall/auditorium, main staff house, and superintendent’s resident -- all built prior to 1946.

GSH also had a Hospital Nursing School, which trained employees for the facility. A graduate program was held every year on the hospital grounds in September. It included an overture, processional, invocation, solo by a singer, address, presentation of new nurses, the administration of the Nurses’ oath, and a benediction in the program. Nurse uniforms were the traditional nurses’ white cap and a seersucker dress with a white apron. The average class was coed. Many of the orderlies at GSH were Seneca Indians who lived on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation property that abutted the state hospital property. The hospital maintained an archery range, a three-hole full sized golf course, a pond stocked with fish, and a recreational center with movies shown in two showings on Saturdays.

Admissions to the hospital usually occurred during the day. New patients would come in usually by court order. They would be isolated from other patients for thirty days for observation and testing. Mentally ill patients are frequently disoriented by their previous experiences and thirty days of a more peaceful environment would improve their demeanor or reveal problems they had. Patients were disoriented for various reasons ranging from mental disease, experiences of war, loss of family, homelessness, job loss and other traumatic events of life. Patients judged to be criminally insane were then sent to Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane or Dannemora State Hospital and not kept at GSH.

GSH had open and closed wards. Some wards were like dorm rooms where patients could not leave. Other wards were two-to-a-room. And other wards in other buildings had patients who could leave during the day and then had to return at night. Curfew times would vary according to the ward. The overall issue was everyone’s safety at all times and that all patients had things to do. Idle patients meant nothing but trouble for the hospital, the ward, staff, and the group of patients involved. Patients with assigned work duties would go to work.

By the 1970s, because of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, the prison population began exploding in numbers, forcing officials to look wherever they could for housing facilities. Gowanda Psychiatric was one of these facilities. When it was discovered that drugs were much cheaper than hospital asylums,Gowanda closed very slowly over a period of time. In 1979 GSH lost its farm program and more of its general population who worked on the farm. The signs of change that would happen in the care of the mentally ill led to attempts at reducing costs. In 1982 the state took over 40 percent of the hospital grounds and began to convert the area to a medium security prison. The rest of Gowanda Psychiatric Center (then the new name for Gowanda State Hospital) had been scheduled to shut down by the beginning of 1991, but it remained open for a couple of more years. In 1993 the state spent $2.9 million to keep the staff and only 14 patients on the premises as part of their plan to keep the facility available for future use. This plan failed when the issue became a fiscal red herring. The closing of the state hospital stretched over many years and was met by protests first against job losses and later against having a prison in the area, despite the additional new job possibilities.

In 1982 the state converted 40 percent of Gowanda State Hospital into a medium security prison and named it Collins Correctional Institution (two separate prisons I and II). In 1994, the Department of Corrections of the State of New York opened a second prison which is located on the state hospital grounds adjacent to Collins Correctional Institution and named it Gowanda Correctional Institution. Gowanda houses 2,300 male prisoners. The ratio of employees to prisoner is 1 employee for every 2.3 prisoners. Staff correctional officers typically work for a range of 12 to 25 years for the institution and live locally. The prisons are separated by a fence and are administered as separate entities that share only heat, water, and power from the old Gowanda State Hospital power plant.

Collins Correctional Institution was founded in 1982 and is divided into two separate compounds (Collins I and Collins II), each with its own secured perimeter fence. Many of the new employees had been employees of the former Gowanda State Hospital. Each compound has a mess hall, library, reception area, commissary, recreational areas, and visiting rooms. There are multiple occupancy rooms in the compounds as well as single and double cells for prisoners. Collins also has a maximum security S-Block. These are 100 cells of double occupancy for inmates who have a tendency to assault staff or not to respond to orders that are used to segregate them from the general population.

Gowanda Correctional Institution opened in 1994 with the transfer of inmates to the new facility. It was located across the road from Collins Correctional Institution to the north and covered additional buildings and grounds of the former state hospital on 40 acres. 2 towers of six stories, known as A and B buildings, were built in 1957. They were built parallel, are identical in appearance and are connected by a four story crossover that contains offices, classrooms and a large kitchen which delivers meals to the entire facility. Gowanda has 33 cafeterias to receive food. Underground tunnels from the old state hospital are used to deliver food. East of the towers is a one-story brick building in the shape of a cross that was built in 1933. It has classrooms, a commissary, and maintenance areas. West of the towers is a one story building built in 1985, which is used for a gymnasium, a library, and an employee cafeteria. South of the towers are two identical three-story brick buildings, built in 1933. Each has a long wing jutting out of the four corners. The buildings are named C and D and are used to house inmates, special inmates such as sex offenders.

  • This hospital received its first 47 patients on August 9th, 1898 and another 54 before the end of that year.


Images of Gowanda State Hospital[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Gowanda State Hospital



Cemetery[edit]

A small cemetery used between 1898 & 1994 contains around 500 graves.


Links & Additional Information[edit]