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The Woodruff Foundation traces its history to the opening of a mental health hospital in 1935 by Mabel A. Woodruff, a World War I Army nurse who became a psychiatric social worker. Appalled by conditions in existing mental health care facilities, she borrowed $800 on her own life insurance, and with funds from friends and supporters, founded a private institution in Cleveland where "one could obtain good care, good food and kindness at the lowest possible cost".
Ms. Woodruff opened her hospital in the old Higbee mansion on Cleveland’s Ingleside Avenue. It was first called the Ingleside Hospital and retained that name when it moved to the former Severance mansion at 8821 Euclid Avenue in 1937. Shortly after Ms. Woodruff died in 1963, the hospital was renamed in her honor.
By 1968, Woodruff Hospital had increased its capacity from 40 beds to 98 beds and had built a modern facility on East 89th Street, which became the largest private psychiatric hospital in northeast Ohio. Ingleside operated until 1969 when it was closed due to conflict between administration and labor and later reopened under new the name Woodruff Memorial Institute.