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Mission Statement

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The Mission

The mission of this site is to archive both historical and current information on asylums across the United States and around the world.

The Statement

This site is dedicated to the history of asylums in all forms. The term of asylum is applied to not only what is commonly thought of: mental hospitals, but can also be applied to sanatoriums, state training schools, reform schools, almshouses, and orphanages. These institutions have and continue to play a major part in today's society.

Everyone throughout the United States and in many other countries has in one way or another felt the touch of these institutions. These places have both directly and indirectly affected people and their families. They have shaped lives and created many popular myths about them.

With all that in mind, this site was created to help in the historical research of any institutions that can be classified as an asylum. It was created for both serious researchers, those who are doing genealogical research, and people with an interest in asylums.

Featured Article Of The Week

Torrance State Hospital


From the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare web page: Torrance State Hospital opened its doors on November 25, 1919, with the transfer of five (5) patients from Danville State Hospital. At that time, it was generally believed that there was no hope for the chronically mentally ill. Consequently, reflecting the feelings and sentiments of society in general, Torrance State Hospital was opened as a custodial care institution for the chronically mentally ill.

Steadily over the years, the original patient census of five (5) grew to a patient census of 3,300 in the 1950's and 1960's, reflecting the attitudes of society toward mental illness. Treatment procedures at Torrance State Hospital followed the development of psychiatry and included shock therapy, psycho-surgery, psychotherapy and chemotherapy--active attempts at the treatment of mental illness quite distinct from the turn of the century approach of simple custodial care.

With the passage of legislation in 1966, which established the community-based mental health system, the stage was set for what became known as the "de-institutionalization movement". Throughout the 1970's to the present, Torrance State Hospital has continued its evolution, ever decreasing its census by affording patients the opportunity to resume community living. The Long Term Care Unit , a licensed Skilled Nursing Facility, was closed in 1996 and the Mental Retardation Unit, which had long been located at Torrance State Hospital, was closed in June 1998. As the need for psychiatric and long-term care beds on the grounds of the state hospital has decreased and availability of community supports has increased, some areas of the physical plant have been converted to other uses. Click here for more...

Featured Image Of The Week

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The Board selected the site at Pontiac known as the "Woodward farm" in June, 1874. This site had the advantages of good soil for farming, a raised elevation that insured pleasant views, fresh air, and good drainage, wells would be able to supply ample fresh water, and it was adjacent to a primary railway line.

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Featured Video

The following are two old movies found at the University of Kentucky and a third that had been held at Eastern State Hospital and recently converted to digital format.

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Asylum News   (news you can edit!)

February 7, 2016 Clarinda struggles to fill former hospital

The 128-year-old former mental health institute in the small southwest Iowa city of Clarinda isn’t your typical real estate opportunity, and so far no one is rushing to move in. More than seven months after the state closed the Clarinda Mental Health Institute, much of the sprawling building remains empty, including entire floors that haven’t been used in decades.

February 1, 2016 Efforts continue to preserve other parts of former Peoria State Hospital grounds

Christina Morris happily remembers Sunday morning breakfasts with her grandparents, followed by visits to the peaceful cemeteries on the grounds of the Peoria State Hospital, where some family members are buried. “My interest with the state hospital started when I was about 7 years old,” Morris said in a recent interview. “When I would come onto the grounds (my grandfather) would say that this was a place of special people. (By special) I thought he meant giants, because these buildings were so big and beautiful and immaculate to me. I just was enamored by how beautiful it was.”

January 7, 2016 That Time The United States Sterilized 60,000 Of Its Citizens

Not too long ago, more than 60,000 people were sterilized in the United States based on eugenic laws. Most of these operations were performed before the 1960s in institutions for the so-called “mentally ill” or “mentally deficient.” In the early 20th century across the country, medical superintendents, legislators, and social reformers affiliated with an emerging eugenics movement joined forces to put sterilization laws on the books.

January, 6, 2016 Pa. hires firm to develop plan for Harrisburg State Hospital site

Harrisburg, PA-The state has hired a Lancaster planning company to help it figure out what to do with the former Harrisburg State Hospital, which closed 10 years ago. Since closing in 2006, the hospital complex has housed state workers from the state police, Department of General Services and the Department of Human Services. It is now part of the larger DGS Annex property, which encompasses 303 acres across Harrisburg and Susquehanna Township.

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