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Featured Article Of The Week

Tacoma State Hospital

Western State Hospital, 1892.jpg

In accordance with an act of the Territorial Legislature, entitled "An Act to Authorize the Purchase of the Government Buildings at Fort Steilacoom for an Insane Asylum," approved December 2. 1869, a Board of Commissioners, consisting of the Governor, Territorial Secretary and Territorial Auditor, purchased the buildings from the federal government on the 15th of January, 1870, for the sum of $850. Section 4 of this act provided that the buildings should be turned over to the commissioners for the care and custody of insane and idiotic persons, to be prepared and used by them as an insane asylum, at the expiration of the contract with Huntington & Sons on July 15, 1871.

In the meantime a contract was made by the territorial authorities with Hill Harmon, of Olympia, to clothe and to keep the insane for a period of five years, dating from August 19, 1871, at 91 cents per diem. After the necessary alterations of the buildings to adapt them to the purpose intended had been made 21 patients were transferred from Monticello on August 19, 1871, and Fort Steilacoom was formally opened as an insane asylum. Dr. Stacy Hemenway was appointed by the commissioners as resident physician.

From a report of the contractor to the Governor of Washington Territory, dated September 30, 1871, it was learned that the asylum building was 152 feet long and 54 feet wide, and was divided into two wards, one for males and one for females. The male ward was 96 feet long and 44 feet wide, containing a central hall and 20 rooms, 10 on each side. Under the same roof was a bathroom supplied with hot and cold water, a water closet and wardrobe. The central hall was 96 feet long and 14 feet wide, having one large window at each end and two skylights. On each side of this hall were 10 rooms, each 18 feet in length by 9 feet in width. These rooms, together with the central hall, accommodated about 40 patients. Click here for more...