Manitowoc County Asylum

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Manitowoc County Asylum
Established 1884
Opened 1885
Demolished 1971
Current Status Demolished (Original Building)
Building Style Single Building
Architect(s) Christian H. Tegen
Location Manitowoc, WI
Alternate Names
  • Manitowoc County Mental Hospital
  • Manitowoc County Hospital (1949)
  • Manitowoc Health Care Center (1973)


William Rahr is due more credit, probably than any other man in the county, for the provision of an asylum for the care of the chronic insane of Manitowoc county. On April 18, 1884, he introduced a resolution in the county board, providing for a committee to investigate the expense of maintaining the insane of the county and the probable cost of building an asylum. Following favorable action on this resolution the necessary steps were taken and an asylum was built during the following summer. Mr. Rahr served on the first committee of investigation, later on the building committee and was the first trustee elected to the asylum board. The first board of trustees was composed of Messrs. William Rahr, John Carey, Henry Vits, Henry Goedjen and C. F. Hacker. Consequent to the resignation of William Rahr, William Lueps was appointed in his stead.

On March 26, 1884, Gustav Mueller, of Reedsville, was elected as the first superintendent of the Manitowoc county asylum. On January 17, 1885, the first patients were brought to the asylum and up to May 23rd of the same year, when the first report was made, fifty-seven patients had been given care and comfort in the asylum. Previous to that time they had been confined in the county jail, while some had been left in charge of a keeper at St. Nazianz.

In the next ten years the number of patients had increased to one hundred and thirty-four and at various times it had become necessary to make additions to the asylum. At this time William Rahr was again elected trustee and the next year, following the resignation of Gustav Mueller and wife, Henry Goedjen and his wife were elected as superintendent and matron. By this time the buildings and equipment had become entirely inadequate for the purpose. So, in the summer of 1897, complete changes were made. Parts of various buildings were remodeled, additional land was purchased, and sanitary conditions improved so that the institution was modernized in equipment and ranks with the best of its kind in the state. As a result of these changes the number of outside patients increased from sixty-three to one hundred and six within the next two years.

In 1902 William Rahr again severed connections with the institution and Henry Wernecke was elected his successor. Much credit is due Mr. Wernecke in conjunction with Mr. Goedjen, the superintendent. To these two, through skillful management and far-sightedness, is due, in a large measure, the prosperity of the last few years of the asylum.

It was a distinct loss to the county when Mr. Goedjen died, October 5, 1911. He was succeeded by Roland Kolb, former farm Manager. Mrs. Goedjen was retained as matron. It has been repeatedly said by all in a position to know, that, while other institutions may be ahead of Manitowoc county in the number and cost of its buildings, nowhere in the state are patients better cared for or given more homelike surroundings. This is due to the efforts of the matron, Mrs. Goedjen. The trustees are Louis Wiegand, William Kiel, and Henry Wernecke.

The original farm property of the asylum comprised fifty-seven acres. Now the acreage has been increased to two hundred and sixty-five acres. Owing to the fact that the land was purchased from time to time, some of it is about two miles from the institution. The original building was first intended to house abut seventy-five patients, for whose care and support the county is paid by those responsible , and with the revenue derived from the farm the running expenses of the asylum has been self-sustaining for a number of years.

Early in the eighties many Manitowoc county men, notably William Rahr, urged the building of the county asylum for the care of the insane and at a meeting of the county board in May 1884 $25,000 was voted for that purpose. A three story brick structure was built on spacious grounds southwest of Manitowoc and the institution was opened in January 1885 with Gustav Mueller as superintendent. The asylum has since been managed by trustees and has proved most successful, many patients from other counites as well as the local insane are being cared for.

A new building opened in 1950 as the Manitowoc County Mental Hospital. It was remodeled and expanded in 1978. The building was torn down after the new Manitowoc County Health Care Center was opened in June of 2003. Harbor Town Center regional shopping complex is now located on this site.