Hissom Memorial Center

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Hissom Memorial Center
Established 1959
Opened 1964
Closed 1994
Current Status Closed
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Sand Springs, OK
Alternate Names


In 1959 the two schools for children with mental retardation, epilepsy, and other mental issues operated by state mental health officials at Enid and Pauls Valley had become antiquated and overcrowded and dated back almost to statehood. The 52nd legislature recognized the need for additional beds to serve this rapidly growing population and appropriated one million dollars for the construction of a third institution on land donated by successful oilman Mr. and Wiley Hissom and his wife, 5 mi NW of Sand Springs, Oklahoma (near Tulsa).

Later, in 1961, an additional 7 million dollars was appropriated to complete construction and fully equip the facility to be named The Hissom Memorial Center. It opened on March 7th, 1964 to 1200 patients. It was at this time the institution removed it's caged cribs, and began to refer to itself at "The City of Hope". Among it’s 24 buildings were medical facilities and dorm-like residences which were seen as an improvement over the old turn-of-the-century institutions. At some point after 1970, part of the campus was used to house juvenile delinquents. This part of the property sat directly next to some of the boys' dormitories.

In the mid-1980s a group called Homeward Bound brought a 6 million dollar lawsuit against the center after a 7 year old patient, Jason George, was found to have bruises and bite marks when picked up by his mother. In hopes of closing it down and placing patients into communities and integrating them into society as much as possible, they contended it was more humane and much cheaper than institutionalization. Indeed, court-appointed observers reported a “prison-like atmosphere” and considered Hissom a “human-development emergency” and an “educational disaster.” The hospital continued operation, and a local newspaper records 51 abuse cases investigated by DHS among clients still living at Hissom as of July 11, 1991. Tranquilizing drugs were reported by a local newspaper as given to children considered "hyper" or problems in general. A federal judge ordered the facility closed in 1987, but it was 1994 when the last patient left and the center was mothballed.

In 2009, Oklahoma’s governor signed legislation authorizing the Oklahoma Department of Central Services to spend $3 million to demolish the site.