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Featured Article Of The Week

Norristown State Hospital


Norristown 17.jpg

Norristown State Hospital received its first patient, a woman, on July 12, 1880 under the supervision of Dr. Robert H. Chase and Dr. Alice Bennett. Two more women arrived on July 13th followed by the first two men on July 17th. Very soon thereafter groups of individuals were admitted from other state hospitals and county almshouses. By September 30, 1880, there were 295 men and 251 women receiving inpatient care and treatment.

Norristown State Hospital was the first of the Pennsylvania state hospitals to construct its buildings deviating slightly from the "Kirkbride Plan", best known as "Transitional Plan". Instead of constructing a single monolithic building, the individual patient wards were separated and free-standing. These building were connected with a series of underground tunnels, including a central tunnel which stretches across the property. Norristown still maintains the schematics of Kirkbride's original plan, with it separation of male and female departments, as well as leveling the acuity of patients by ward.

There was a tremendous emphasis during the early period on a 'humane' approach to psychiatric treatment ("moral therapy") allowing the individual as much liberality as his/her condition would permit, which was common of the period. Several low-acuity wards were unlocked for periods of time, and grounds privileges was a common feature of daily life. Work assignments became a significant feature of a patient's daily routine, many focusing on the workings of the state farm. They were not limited to farm work, other occupational departments include: Administration, Bakery, Billiard room, Boiler room, Bric-a-brac shop, Brush shop, Butcher, Carpenter shop, Dispensary, Garden, Kitchen, Laundry, Machinists, Mattress shop, News-room, Out-door improvement, Painters, Plasterers, Plumbers, Printing office, Scroll saw shop, Shoemakers, Stables, Store-rooms, Tailors, Wards and dining rooms and Weavers. However, with the change in Pennsylvania State Law in the 1970's, hospital patients were no longer permitted to be involved in farm labor. Thereafter, the farmlands were employed by separates agencies of the city of Norristown, namely Norris-City and Norristown Farm Park. Click here for more...