Norwalk State Hospital

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Norwalk State Hospital

Main Building
Established 1915
Opened 1916
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Norwalk, Los Angeles County, CA
Alternate Names
  • Metropolitan State Hospital


A study by a group of Los Angeles County Psychiatrists projected that with the area’s population growth and overcrowding at Patton State Hospital there was a need for a second Los Angeles area hospital. On June 7, 1913, based on this study, Governor Hiram Johnson signed Senate Bill No. 739 appropriating authority and funds to create a second state hospital in Southern California for the reception and treatment of California’s increasing population of persons with psychiatric disabilities, alcohol and drug addiction. Three hundred and five acres of land in Norwalk were purchased for $90,000 after a selection committee had inspected twenty Southern California sites and considered forty separate proposals. The three top contenders for the new facility were Beverly Hills, Signal Hill and Norwalk. Signal Hill in Long Beach was rejected because the sea air was not perceived as healthful as the country air in Norwalk. In addition, the climate was damp and foggy, and it was difficult to access. The decision to place the hospital in Norwalk was prompted primarily due to its location, with easy access to good roads and railroad service. At the time, Norwalk was a very large and popular resort area that was used seasonally because of its clean, healthy air, mild temperatures, mineral baths, Railroad Station as well as being the “in place” to have a cottage.

On February 15, 1916, the State Lunacy Commission opened Norwalk State Hospital with 105 patients on Wards 2 and 4 with 21 employees, including one physician. Many of these patients most likely had a syphilis induced psychosis and were termed luetic patients, meaning a patient who was affected by syphilis. These first patients were noted to be “accommodating male patients of a quiet working class” and were transferred by rail and buckboard from Patton State Hospital (PSH) in Patton, CA. Those that came by buckboard, a four-wheeled horse drawn wagon, reportedly camped along the way for rest stops. These patients later assisted hospital staff with the building and development of the original construction located between Circle Drive and what has become Bloomfield Avenue. Circle Drive was planned as a frontage road for a cottage style hospital with separate buildings as opposed to one large complex modeled in the Kirkbride tradition which was devised for the Moral Treatment of mentally ill patients.

Many changes have taken place since the opening of Norwalk State Hospital on February 15, 1916 including the development of psychotropic medications, increased therapies and improved standards of care. On September 9, 1953 a voluntary name change to Metropolitan State Hospital was requested so as to represent the service area and not the geography of the hospital’s location. In 2012 the Department of State Hospitals (DSH) was formed to streamline the state hospital system. The hospital was renamed DSH-Metropolitan at that time and is one of five existing state hospitals in California. Today DSH-Metropolitan has a daily census of approximately 750 patients and approximately 1,400 employees.

The facility celebrated its 100th anniversary on February 15, 2016. To commemorate the occasion, the facility opened a Mental Health Museum, unveiled a ceramic tiled Centennial Wall, sponsored an all day mental health conference, provided a retiree/alumni tea and social, and facilitated multiple patient events.

Marilyn Monroe's mother Gladys was treated at this hospital after she had suffered a mental break down. Bela Lugosi is another famous former patient, admitted for 90 days in 1955 to treat his morphine addiction.