Somerset State Hospital
|Somerset State Hospital|
|Opened||Sept 29, 1938 (As a PA State Hospital)|
|Building Style||Cottage Plan|
|Peak Patient Population||463 in 1947|
Somerset State Hospital opened September 29, 1938 as the Somerset County Hospital, and was managed by the Somerset County Government. On September 1, 1941 hospital operations changed from Somerset County to the Commonwealth, for the care and treatment of patients with mental disabilities. The hospital stood on 1,000 acres, much of which was cultivated or used by dairy farmers. A portion of the hospital's dairy and vegetable needs were met by a truck garden. The hospital added a Social Service Department in September 1957 that included the appointment of the first professionally trained social worker. The facility grew in size to accomodate 775 patients by 1961 and served Somerset and Fayette Counties. Between 1976 and 1979 an annex that had supported mentally disabled patients at Hollidaysburg State Hospital closed and those patients transferred to Somerset State Hospital. The hospital closed in 1995 as part of the movement to deinstitutionalize patients with mental disabilities. The facility was retrofitted and updated in 1996 and transformed into the minimal security Laurel Highlands State Correctional Institution. 
Timeline history of the Somerset County Poor and House of Employment or Somerset State Hospital:
1845-1846 - Land obtained and building known as Somerset County Poor House
1846: The Somerset County House of Employment or “Poor House” opened on what is now Rt. 31 north of the Kimberly Run Preserve. Benjamin Kimmell, Absalom Casebeer and Joseph Imhoff were the first directors, and they purchased a 265-acre farm known as “Fairview” to support the residents. 
1800’s -Institution known as Somerset County Poor and House of Employment
1901 – Addition built as New Somerset County Hospital for the Insane (from Directors Report in Meyersdale Commercial Paper dated March 27, 1902).
1900’s- 1946 – Somerset County Poor and House of Employment and County Hospital for the Insane
1938- Somerset State Hospital
1976-1979- Hollidaysburg Hospital closed and patients moved to Somerset State Hospital.
1898 The Somerset County House of Employment was re-opened as the Somerset County Hospital for patients who were mentally ill (Lepley, 1996).
1995 – Somerset State Hospital Closed
1996 – Site changed hands and currently Laurel Highlands State Correctional Institution. 
"The Directors of the poor have recently been giving more than usual attention to the grave yard on the poor farm in which the bodies of the inmates of the County Home are interred, says the Somerset Standard. The old iron fence which was removed from about the court house lawn has been set up around the grave yard and tombstones are being furnished for the graves. The number of bodies now lying in the grave yard is not known, but it is probably not less than two hundred." 
There are actually at least two cemeteries on the grounds - one that is currently inside the razor wire fence, and which was unearthed a few years ago when the prison was doing site preparation for a new building. According to Linda Kurtz, "they called the forensic department of Mercyhurst College who did the actual digging. They were not able to identify the remains beyond male/female, adult/child, lost a leg, etc."
A second cemetery is in the wooded area just North of old Building 7 (as it was called during the State Hospital days.) This would be just North of the Northernmost fenced in area.
Known burials can be found HERE
Images of Somerset State Hospital
- Source: www.dcnr.state.pa
- Source: Koontz, 1906; Figure 3
- ABOVE HISTORY WAS RESEARCHED BY CAROLYN MCKINNEY, KEITH PETENBRINK, AND CYNTHIA MASON, AND GRACIOUSLY PROVIDED BY MEYERSDALE PUBLIC LIBRARY.
- Meyersdale Republican, June 25, 1903