St. Joseph State Hospital
The story begins in 1872 when Missouri’s State Legislature approved $200,000 for the building of a Lunatic Asylum and St. Joseph citizens convinced the legislature to locate it just east of their city. Opening its doors on November 9, 1874, the hospital was called the State Hospital for the Insane No.2, or more familiarly named the Lunatic Asylum #2. Beginning with 25 patients, the first hospital superintendent described the institution as "the noble work of reviving hope in the human heart and dispelling the portentous clouds that penetrate the intellects of minds diseased.” And so it was for the next 127 years.
In no time at all the hospital’s 275 beds filled when relatives could no longer handle the special needs of family members with mental illness. Soon, an additional 120 beds were added, then another 250, then more and more over the years, as the hopelessly mental ill poured through their doors. In the hospital’s early years, the asylum was a self-sufficient institution where the patients worked on a farm, raising crops and livestock, to provide food for the facility. Allegedly, the hospital needed only to purchase salt and sugar to supplement their food provisions.
The hospital continued to be referred to as the State Lunatic Asylum #2 until 1899, when it gained the name the St. Joseph State Hospital. By the early 1950s, the facility had grown to nearly 3,000 beds and housed some of the most criminally insane individuals in the state, as well as those that could be rehabilitated, and others who were merely depressed. According to the museum, a few of these patients were just mildly depressed individuals who were dumped there by annoyed relatives. With modern medications, more and more patients began to return to society. Throughout its history, the hospital underwent a series of experimental treatments for its patients, some of which sound more like a cause rather than a cure for insanity. Click here for more...