Mount Hope Retreat

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Mount Hope Retreat
Established 1840
Construction Began July 2, 1859
Construction Ended 1870
Opened July 8, 1860
Closed June 1973
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Kirkbride Plan
Architect(s) Long & Powell
Location Baltimore, Maryland
Alternate Names
  • Seton Institute
  • Mt. Hope
  • Mt. Hope Institution
  • Mount Hope Insane Asylum
  • Mount St. Vincent


In 1840 the Sisters of Charity, because of some dissatisfaction on the part of the Board of Directors, severed their connection with the Maryland Hospital, where for several years they had been in charge of the insane inmates and where they had been eminently successful.

The Sisters moved their operations to a of their own, and 17 patients were at once placed in their care. Their first building was a small two-story brick house on Front Street, near Fayette, adjoining St. Vincent's Church. Dr. Durkee was then installed as medical attendant. This building soon proved insufficient and the Sisters were forced to seek more commodious accommodations. They finally purchased a lot improved by a frame building on the Harford Road, a short distance from the city limits, and called it Mount St. Vincent. This was arranged for the accommodation of patients, and the Sisters devoted themselves with renewed zeal and constantly increasing success to the good work they had undertaken. In 1842 Dr. William H. Stokes was invited to assume the medical charge of the new institution and his untiring energy, devotion and fidelity contributed greatly to its advancement and success. With the rapid growth of the institution, Mt. St. Vincent soon became overcrowded with patients, and the Sisters were compelled a second time to seek more ample quarters in order to meet the demand of those who appreciated their kindly care and attention.

In April, 1844, Mt. Hope College, situated in the vicinity of what is now North Avenue, Laurens, Park and Bolton streets, was purchased with its ample grounds from Mr. Treadwell by Rev. L. Deluol, who was then Superior of the order. On taking possession of this property the Sisters changed its name to Mt. Hope Institution. As it had been built as a college, it was found admirably adapted to the care of patients and the rooms and dormitories were very desirable. Several springs on the property afforded an ample supply of water, which was forced into the house by hydraulic rams.

After being repaired and enlarged this building, with its beautiful surroundings, situated at a convenient distance from the city, for many years formed a prominent feature among the institutions of Baltimore; its reputation soon became national, patients being received from all sections of the country. From time to time the structure was enlarged and extended to accommodate the unexpected influx of patients. The whole interior was remodeled and appliances were introduced which the humane spirit of the age deemed essential for the successful treatment of mental disease.

But it was not to rest here. Within a few years Mt. Hope in its turn became crowded, and this fact, together with the extension of streets and the rapid encroachment of the city on the privacy of patients, necessitated another removal. After an examination of numerous sites, it was decided to purchase the property on the Reisterstown Road, extending back to the Liberty Road, known as the Meredith Tract. This location, about one mile from the then city limits, possessed many advantages.

The new hospital was designed by Long & Powell, architects, under the direction of Rev. F. Burlando, then Superior of the Sisters of Charity. The foundation stone was laid by him on July 2, 1859. The first wing was completed in 1860, and on the 8th of July four Sisters took possession of it; their number was soon increased to 12, and the patients were removed from Mt. Hope Institution as fast as accommodations could be provided. The new home was known henceforth as Mt. Hope Retreat and under this title was incorporated in March, 1870.

The site selected is upon a knoll 40 feet above the main road and about a quarter of a mile distant from it, being about 550 feet above tide water, and embraces 375 acres. The front of the building faces the southeast and the view from this presents a bold, undulating slope through orchards, meadows and fields to a brook which winds through the low lands, emerging at the extreme southern border of the grounds, about a mile distant. The main entrance is approached by a gateway of granite and iron through an avenue of trees and shrubbery, passing in front of the east wing. The hospital consists of a main building and four extensive. wings. The former is five stories high, with an attic surmounted by a dome 160 feet from the ground, which affords a magnificent view of the city, the bay and the surrounding country. In the center or main building are located the reception rooms, the parlor, the billiard room, the Sisters' apartments, chapel, special private rooms, the dormitories for patients and the sewing rooms. The wings are appropriated to the exclusive use of patients. There are numerous out-buildings, among which are the doctor's cottage on the north, a handsome two-story brick gate house, two large pavilions on the west, the laundry, the work-shop and the ice and engine house; while on the farm are stone cottages occupied by the manager, the gardener, the engineer, the watchman and others employed on the place. All told, nearly 1000 souls represent the modest family which 52 years ago formed the nucleus of Mt. Hope Retreat. To the southeast, about three-quarters of a mile from the main building, is a lake. In close proximity to this lake are picnic grounds on which stands another cottage fitted up as a kitchen for picnic parties, where may be prepared lunch or dinner as may be desired for the patients who frequently pass whole days on these grounds, and thus secure a desirable and delightful change from the monotony of "asylum" life.

The records show that 10,587 patients were treated between the opening of the modest asylum on Front Street in 1840 and 1892. The professional care of the inmates was for 45 years under the direction of Dr. Wm. H. Stokes, an able and beloved physician. In 1872 he called to his assistance Dr. I. D. Thompson, who zealously served in this capacity until his failing health compelled him to resign in 1881, when Dr. Charles G. Hill was selected to take his place. In 1888 Dr. Stokes resigned and Dr. Charles G. Hill was made his successor. Dr. Richard McSherry was appointed assistant physician and filled the position for a year. Dr. W. P. E. Wyse was appointed in his place, and served until he resigned to engage in private practice in 1891. Dr. F. J. Flannery, who in 1881 had been appointed second assistant physician, became first assistant physician, which position he still fills.

The annual report for the year 1892, while recorded as the 50th, was in reality for the 52d year of continuous existence. Since then there has been issued, each year, an annual report.

Dr. William H. Stokes, for 45 years the chief physician of the institution, died during the year 1893 at the age of 84 years. In 1888, by reason of the infirmities due to his long service and advanced age, he had been compelled to resign as chief physician. It was Dr. W. H. Stokes who. having seen the employment of non-restraint methods under the famous Connolly and other alienists of Europe, introduced them into Mt. Hope Retreat.

A new wing was added to the institution this year, its dimensions being 58 by 78 feet, three stories high, with a one-story wing containing the bakery, 25 by 40 feet, and a covered passage to the ice-house. This building contains a large kitchen, Sisters' dining room, serving room, linen room and elevators from the kitchen and cellar. The third floor, 55 by 58 feet in the clear, is devoted to the amusement and entertainment of the patients, there being an ample stage, well provided with movable scenery, and two dressing rooms.

In 1894 a new barn was added to the already extensive outbuildings of the Retreat and the facility of supplying fresh milk and cream for the use of the patients was enhanced. The new entertainment hall afforded not only the means for giving numerous theatricals, concerts, lectures, and dances, but also a suitable place for large classes of calisthenics, Swedish movement exercises, etc. While this new hall is of advantage at all times, it is indispensable during the long winter months when the patients are unable to get out of doors. The physical exercises and massage afforded form a valuable adjunct to the treatment. .

The mortality for the year 1893 was 49, a very small percentage, the deaths recorded occurring principally among the old patients.

The training school for nurses reached its fourth year in 1895. During the year the classes were given weekly lectures by Drs. Hill and Flannery, at the same time they continued their courses under competent teachers who drilled them in bedside notes, the preparation of clinical charts and the chemical composition and preparation of foods. Hygienic laws were examined, together with the method and purposes of disinfection. All the nursing staff attended the lectures by the physicians and only graduates were exempted from the recitations.

Several important improvements were completed during the year. By increasing the steam power and enlarging the pipe capacity the storage reservoir is now amply supplied from the waters of an artificial lake, and the water supply is absolutely independent and unstinted. From this lake the winter harvest of ice is gathered and capacious storage houses are filled. The entire building was wired and electric lights installed, doing away with gas and other antiquated methods of lighting.

A new clinical laboratory, replete with every facility and appliance that science has devised for the investigation and diagnosis of disease, was built and equipped and is now in successful operation under the direction of a competent pathologist. By the aid of centrifuge and haematocrit, together with other mechanical and chemical adjuncts, examinations of blood, sputum, urine, stomach contents, etc., can now be made without delay and the diagnosis and treatment facilitated. This laboratory is not designed so much for investigation of diseased conditions found on postmortem examinations, as for the functional and organic disturbances of the living subject.

The report of the year 1896 shows a great increase in the population over previous years. The usual number per month averaged about 600. Owing to the success of the laboratory methods of treatment, a greater number of cures were effected and the discharges increased. The improvements made during this year were principally the completion of the new toilet rooms.

The laboratory has proved of great assistance, both in making the diagnosis and in suggesting the proper methods of treatment. Each new patient on entering is subjected to a thorough test as to the various secretions. A 24-hour analysis of the urine is made; blood is examined and the contents of the stomach, after the usual test meals, are likewise the subject of inspection and analysis.

During the year 1898 the laboratory was enlarged and many new instruments and appliances for diagnosis added.

Being chartered as a general hospital as well as an institution for the insane, many apply for treatment who are not confessedly insane, but suffering from some form of nervous or general disease or the drug habit, as well as a considerable number of inebriates who come and go as they feel the need of the protection and care of the institution. These, of course, are not under certificate, nor classified as insane, and come voluntarily.

Attention has been given of late to the possibilities and advantages of the cottage plan of housing and caring for the insane. Mt. Hope has this system practically under one roof, as there are 17 halls, each separate and distinct from the rest, governed by two Sisters and nurses and attendants. This subdivision allows each hall or family to maintain its own identity. The Sisters of Charity have entire control and charge of the institution and the physicians are not burdened with any clerical or administrative duties, and devote their entire attention to the examination and treatment of the patients.

The most important improvement during the year 1905 was the installation of a refrigerating plant and ice-making machine. The ice machine has a capacity of 500 pounds daily and the refrigerating plant takes care of the kitchen, bakery and storage rooms.

In 1906 the large parlors and waiting rooms were subdivided into smaller and more convenient rooms. This subdivision was forced upon the management by reason of the large and steady increase of patients seeking admission who wanted, when possible, the privacy of their own rooms.

In view of the fact that a certificate of graduation is required in many hospitals in this and other states, the usual course of lectures in the school for nurses was at this time made more systematic, and hereafter such as have completed their course and passed a satisfactory examination will be granted certificates setting forth their proficiency and graduation.

In 1907 a large amusement hall, with a capacity for seating 600, and with a well-equipped stage, was provided. Numerous plays have been given by the inmates as well as by outside talent. Two theatrical companies were organized, one from the women and the other from the men patients, who by constant drill and practice attained a surprising facility for the production of comedies and operas.

In 1908 the full equipment for making the Wassermann test was established.

During this year Sister Catharine, the beloved Sister Superior, who for 42 years had guided Mt. Hope, died. Sister Catharine left the hospital of the army in 1862 and returned to Mt. Hope. In 1867 she was made Superioress. During her administration Mt. Hope grew from the one wing that was then completed to the magnificent building that stands to-day. Her successor was Sister M. Magdalene, who after years spent as a nurse both in old and new Mt. Hope was sent to St. Louis to take charge of old St. Vincent's. She remained there 19 years and during that time built the new St. Vincent's Retreat at Normand, a suburb of St. Louis, finally coming back to the scene of her early labors.

In 1911 the new chapel was built, it being a four-story brick building, the second and third stories being devoted to chapel purposes, and the first and fourth stories to new dining and sleeping quarters. The old chapel was converted into large dormitories. Large concrete and iron porches and fire escapes have been added to each wing, affording open air exercises to many patients who are unable to go to the grounds.

In 1912 a much-needed elevator of the most recent and improved design was installed. A new central power plant completed in 1913 consists of a boiler room 42 by 42 feet, with a height of 25 feet, equipped with three modern boilers of 150 horse power each, with sufficient space for the installation of a fourth boiler. There is a smokestack 125 feet high by 5 feet in diameter, a fuel bunker 22 by 43 feet, with a capacity of 300 tons of coal, and a pump room 10 by 36 feet, with modern pumps and duplicates of each, including feed-water heaters. The engine room is equipped with one direct-connected 50 kilowatt generator with proper switch-board and connections for supplying the entire, building with light and power. The new cold storage, ice-making and brine room department is 19 by 34 feet, with a storage battery room of the same dimensions on the second floor. There is also a work-shop in this building. This structure has brick walls, reinforced concrete floor, stair and roof construction, finished floors of vitrified brick, cement and cement tile, the roof finished of slate and slag, and doors and windows of wood.

This plant is manufacturing electricity for lighting and power work, high pressure steam for kitchen and laundry purposes, hot water for the entire building, and brine for cold storage rooms and ice-making, in addition to heating the entire institution, including laundry and rooms for employees detached from the building proper. In order to properly connect this power house with the institution it was found necessary to construct three tunnels, each 6 feet wide by 8 feet high, one of which is 50 feet, another 60 feet, and a third 200 feet long. These tunnels, in addition to their convenience for passage to and fro, carry the pipes for hot water supplies, high pressure steam supplies and returns, brine supplies, electric lines and heating mains and returns. The tops of the tunnels are covered with concrete slabs, reinforced, forming a pavement for outside travel in good weather.

The laundry building was also completely remodeled, the floor of the wash-room proper being built of reinforced concrete. The laundry has been equipped with three direct-connected washing machines, two direct-connected extractors, one starch cooker, one dry room tumbler, one continuous rapid dry room, one large mangle and 12 electric irons and boards, all of the latest and most modern types.

The patient population at Mt. Hope Retreat on October 31, 1913, was: males, 264; females, 397; total, 661.[1]

In 1926, the hospital was housing 634 patients, both male and female, and was being financed through a combination of funds from the city, counties, state and private patients. Upon reaching its centennial in 1940, the hospital was still clearly proud of its mission and accomplishments. Following World War II, populations in Mental Health facilities swelled, causing overcrowding conditions that were the subject of a brutal expose by the Sunpapers. Despite the poor marks given to several State-operated facilities such as Spring Grove State Hospital and Crownsville State Hospital, no mention was made of the Mt. Hope facilities, leaving one to assume that the administrators there were better able to handle the challenges of this tough period.

In 1946, the Mt. Hope Retreat would be renamed as the Seton Institute in honor of Mother Seton. With this change, the institution became an active treatment and clinical training center. However, its future would grow short as a result in changes in policy toward institutionalization. New drug therapies became available, and community based services would supplant the older approaches to mental health, though the facility was still treating about 300 patients at one time as late as 1969. Faced with the need for a costly major renovation, the Seton Institute would close its doors in June of 1973, with its outpatient services being moved to St. Agnes Hospital, and other operations being phased out. The land would be auctioned off in parcels, the largest of which would be purchased by the City of Baltimore for its development into a new office park in the early 1980's. The main building would later be demolished, and most traces of the former facility would vanish behind new grading and roadways, and facilities such as the NAACP and the MTA's Northwest Bus Division.[2]

Images of Mount Hope Retreat[edit]

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