Kentucky Institution for Feeble Minded Children
|Kentucky Institution for Feeble Minded Children|
|Building Style||Cottage Plan|
|Peak Patient Population||1,160 in 1961|
In 1855 Governor Morehead addressed the legislature and called attention to the need for caring for feeble-minded children in the state. A bill was introduced to establish such a facility in Danville. It was not enacted until the next Governor. Dr. Joseph Parris offered to visit the Kentucky Legislature, bringing some of his institutionalized children from Pennsylvania to demonstrate how practical the work with them was. It was estimated that there were approximately 800 mentally challenged children in the state at that time. On December 6, 1859 Governor Magoffin recommended that an institution be established for the care & education of the feeble-minded. A bill was passed and signed by the governor complying with his recommendations march 1st, 1860.
The first child was admitted to the institution August 16, 1860. Her name was Lizzie Bradford of Augusta, Kentucky and she was about 14 years old. Until 15 years after it opened, no complete records were kept of patients admitted or released at the institution. A new building was immediately planned to house an additional 75 children, making a total of 90 that could be accommodated. This number was not reached until 1872. In 1869 $40,000 was appropriated for an additional building that was completed in 1872. It was suggested in 1866 that the purpose of the institution be changed so that the lowest grade of untrainable children could be admitted. there were 3 categories of patient, at the time, idiots, imbecile & feeble-minded. This was determined by an IQ test administered by hospital staff. Around the sametime it was decided to establish a mechanical department in connection with the school. In it, mattresses, brooms, brushes and shoes were made. In addition to this, other activites were added. Gymnastics, singing, sewing and farm work occupied the children's' time.
By 1921 it housed 470 patients but the capacity was only 350. The buildings according to an annual report stated the buildings were "old & ill adapted to modern methods of work". Making matters worse was the fact that Kentucky retained its Pauper Idiot Pension Law, a holdover from antebellum times. The law, the only of its kind in the nation, allowed payment of $75 per year to the families of poor feeble-minded individuals in the community. In 1917, 2,352 feeble-minded people received payments, the law was repealed in 1922. By the 1920s an effort was made to pass sterilization laws for Kentucky. None were ever passed & the institution changed its name to Kentucky Training home in 1945 and was a 1,018 bed facility.
Due to funding issues and declining patient population along with several scandals and a homicide of a patient the hospital was closed in the 1970's. Most of the patients were moved to the other 3 state hospitals or one of the several facilities for mentally challenged. All but 1 building was demolished and the state built a large office building in it's place.
At the south end of the property the cemetery remains. It contains Approximately 500 graves & most are marked "Unknown", only about 14 have names on their headstones.
Main Image Gallery: Kentucky Institution for Feeble Minded Children