Norfolk State Hospital

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Norfolk State Hospital
Established March 4, 1885
Opened February 15, 1888
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Norfolk, NE.
Alternate Names
  • Insane Asylum in Norfolk
  • Nebraska State Hospital
  • Norfolk Hospital for the Insane
  • Norfolk Regional Center (Current)

The Norfolk Regional Center was established in 1885 as an insane asylum under the name Norfolk Hospital for the Incurably Insane on 320 acres of land provided by the city of Norfolk.


The reason for the establishment of a state hospital at Norfolk was because of the fact that there was no hospital located in the northern part of the state, the two hospitals existing being located, one at Lincoln, Neb., in the southeast part of the state, and the other at Hastings, Neb., in the southwest part of the state; the City of Norfolk is located in the northeast part of the state.

  • The act of Legislature, approved March 4, 1885, establishing this hospital is in part as follows:

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Nebraska:

1. That there shall be established in the State of Nebraska an institution under the name and style of "A Hospital for the Insane of Nebraska."

2. That the said hospital for the insane of Nebraska be, and the same is hereby, established and located within three miles of the corporate limits of the city or town of Norfolk, Neb., on such site as may be deemed most practicable by the Board of Public Lands and Buildings. Provided, however, that the said city or town of Norfolk shall donate to the State of Nebraska a tract of land containing not less than 320 acres of good land upon which to locate the said institution.

4. That the sum of $75,000 be and the same is hereby appropriated out of the state general fund for the purpose of erecting the necessary buildings.

5. The entire cost of the buildings, including advertising and other expenses, must in nowise exceed the amount appropriated in section 4 of this act.

6. Upon the day specified in said advertisement, said board shall proceed to examine such plans and specifications, and adopt the one best calculated to subserve the wants of the institution. In case no plan is adopted the board shall continue to advertise, as provided for in section 5 of this act, until a plan is accepted.

7. Upon the adoption of a plan said board shall advertise in a way and manner provided for in section 5 of this act for sealed proposals to build said buildings, according to the plans and specifications adopted.

9. Before entering upon this contract the contractor shall be required to execute a good and sufficient bond, to be approved by the said board, in the sum of $50,000 for the faithful performance of said contract.

10. The Auditor of Public Accounts is hereby authorized to draw his warrant on the State Treasurer for the amount specified in this act whenever the proper vouchers, approved by the Board of Public Lands and Buildings, are presented to him for payment.

The Norfolk State Hospital was opened for the reception of patients February 15, 1888, when 43 female patients and 54 male patients were transferred from the Hospital for the Insane at Lincoln, Neb. In the late fall of 1901 a fire occurred, which destroyed most of this building. It was rebuilt on the cottage plan, so that there are now three cottages constructed of brick and two of stone, besides the one wing of the old asylum building erected before the fire, which was repaired and reconstructed. Besides the above there is one brick building used for offices and quarters for officers. Dr. Kelley was the first superintendent, but as the hospital was destroyed by fire in the fall of 1901, there are no records showing the names and terms of service of the different superintendents and assistants prior to that time.

After the fire when the hospital was rebuilt Dr. J. M. Alden was appointed superintendent March 15, 1905, and resigned on October 8, 1906. Dr. F. S. Nicholson was appointed assistant May 20, 1905, and resigned August 1, 1906, when Dr. H. D. Singer was appointed to take his place. Dr. G. A. Young was appointed superintendent October 8, 1906, and served until February 1, 1909. Dr. Singer resigned as first assistant August 15, 1907, and was succeeded by Dr. G. W. Dishong. Dr. Ernest Kelley was appointed second assistant December 28, 1907. Dr. J. P. Percival was appointed superintendent February 1, 1909, and served until February 1, 1911. Dr. W. D. Guttery was appointed first assistant February 1, 1909, and served until June 1, 1911. Dr. Ernest Kelley resigned May 26, 1910, and was succeeded by Dr. L. M. Lombard, who served until November 10, 1910, and he in turn was succeeded by Dr. H. M. Newman November 10, 1910, who served until February 1, 1911.

Dr. A. Johnson was appointed superintendent February 1, 1911, and is still in charge of this hospital. Dr. H. C. Carson was appointed second assistant physician June 1, 1911, and upon the resignation of Dr. G. W. Dishong November 1, 1911, was promoted to first assistant, and is still serving in that capacity. Dr. J. S. Simms was appointed second assistant physician February 1. 1912.[1]

The institution went through several name changes. In 1895, the legislature voted to call it the Asylum for the Chronic Insane. In 1905, the name was changed to Nebraska State Hospital, and then again in 1915 it was renamed the Ingelside Hospital for the Insane. The facility had four types of patients: Geriactrics, Alcoholics and drug addicts, and the criminally insane. The Norfolk Regional Center is currently a mental health and substance abuse treatment facility for adolescent and young adult males who have been paroled from the Youth Rehabilitation Treatment Center in Kearney, Nebraska (Nebraska Dept of Health). In total 902 individuals were sterilized in Nebraska. 53% of whom were women. 80% of those sterilized were deemed “mentally deficient.” The lobotomies began in 1917 and ended in 1963.

The first law regarding sterilization was passed in 1915, after a failed initial attempt by state legislators in 1913 was vetoed by Governor John H. Morehead. This law was revised in both 1929 and 1957. The 1915, law provided for the sterilizations of the insane and feeble-minded inmates of state institutions before they were paroled. The state institutions specifically mentioned in the statute included “institutions for the feeble-minded, hospitals for the insane, the penitentiary, reformatory, industrial schools, the industrial home, and other such State institutions” In 1929, the original law was repealed and a new law was enacted, which included “habitual criminals, moral degenerates, and sexual perverts“—those individuals convicted of rape or incest—as well as the original groups. The 1929 revision of the law made it so that any inmate convicted of rape or other crimes of sexual perversion were to be compulsorily sterilized. Although the sterilization was mandatory for these individuals, the law mandated both notice and hearing and the potential for appeal to the Supreme Court.

Although habitual criminals and sex offenders were included in the law between 1929 and 1957, the “feeble-minded” were the initial targets. They remained a group of concern for several years after the state ceased its sterilizations of the criminally insane. The ratio of men to women sterilized is relatively equal, indicating no presence of bias toward either sex. In 1929, the Nebraska legislature altered the sterilization law to include those individuals convicted of sodomy. This amendment included individuals who had been deemed “moral degenerates or sexual perverts”. According to data provided by Julius Paul, more than 80% of sterilizations occurred on residents of the Beatrice State Home, founded in 1887 as the Nebraska Institution for Feebleminded Youth. The institution is now known as the Beatrice State Developmental Center, specializing in the treatment of children and adults with behavioral and developmental disabilities (Nebraska Dept. of Health). The website makes no mention of the location’s past involvement with eugenics and sterilization. In terms of a history, the website states, briefly, that the Center “has served citizens with mental retardation since 1887”.

It was renamed the Norfolk Regional Center, and has 120-beds in part of a Sex Offender Treatment Center providing Phase I services in the Nebraska Sex Offender Treatment Program. The Nebraska Sex Offender Treatment Program is a three phase treatment program meant to reduce dangerousness and risk of re-offense for patients involved in treatment. Phase I treatment orients patients to the treatment process; begins working with patients to accept full responsibility for their sex offending and sexually deviant behaviors; teaches patients to give and receive feedback and utilize coping skills; and builds motivation for the intensive treatment in Phases II and III which are provided at Lincoln Regional Center.[2]

Images of Norfolk State Hospital[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Norfolk State Hospital


There are 2 cemeteries on the property, both only have a handful or markers. The "old" cemetery contains less then 100 graves and has 3 markers. The "new" cemetery has around 500 burial and about a dozen markers. List of known burials can be found HERE

Links & Additional Information[edit]