Waukesha County Poor House and Asylum for the Insane

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Waukesha County Poor House and Asylum for the Insane
Established 1857
Opened 1874/1904
Current Status Active
Building Style Single Building
Architect(s) Van Ryn & DeGelleke
Location Waukesha, WI
Peak Patient Population 245 in 1958
Alternate Names
  • Waukesha County Asylum for the Chronic Insane and County Home
  • Waukesha County Home and Hospital
  • Waukesha County Huber Facility


The first non-county run poor house in this area existed sometime prior to 1857 when individual townships in the area banded together to take care of the poor and insane in the area. Much of the care was done contractually until the counties decided to take over and pay for the care of those in need through taxes levied by the county. Prior to 1880 Waukesha was one of the first counties in the state of Wisconsin to have an asylum and poor house run by the township. As the burden of the cost of paying for the care for the poor and insane became excessive, the county taxation system stepped in and took over the running of the facility and all patients were moved from the prior facility to the new Insane asylum and poor farm.

The first paupers in the area recorded as being cared for by a separate individual were cared for by a Matthew Wright sometime prior to 1857. In 1866 the Township took over the care of individuals with mental health issues and the poor with no means of support and contracted for their care with a Mr. McNaughton of Vernon, WI. Eventually the care of the patients in his charge became too large a burden to be done in the existing facilities and it was decided that a new asylum and poor farm was needed. Mr. McNaughton sold his farm and the buildings on it to the township and a brick and mortar asylum was built in 1874.

In 1902 it was decided by the state legislature that the care of the poor and insane should be taken over by the county and paid for through taxes levied by the county. Plans for a new asylum and poor house designed by Van Ryne and De Gelleke, of Milwaukee, Wis were selected and May 12, 1902, bids were opened for construction of the building. The contract for the building was awarded to Dwinnell and Laughlin, while Michael Gleason was hired to do the masonry work. Construction on the new facility was completed in 1904. This new facility appears to have largely been used for those patients deemed insane, with the poor being sent to another facility that was separated from the asylum. Use of the facility appears to have run until some time around 1951 when the last burial is noted to have occurred.

Built as two separate buildings, the insane asylum provided separate quarters (wings) for male and female patients and was located to the east, while the poor house was located a short distance to the west. Barns and other farm support buildings were also located on the property (a barn remains extant to the east of the facility). The county poor were transferred from the Town of Vernon facility and placed in the insane asylum until their separate poor house quarters were completed later that year. Sanborn maps indicate that the first addition was made to the west side of the poor house after 1929 (likely in the 1930s). By no later than 1949, the name of the facility had changed from the County Insane Asylum and Poor Farm to the Waukesha County Hospital Home & Infirmary.

It was in the circa-1950s that an additional wing was added to the westernmost end of the poor house. Dairy farm operations ceased in 1965 (although hog raising continued and soybean, oats and hay crops were cultivated) and it was at that time the mid-1960s block was constructed, which then connected the former insane asylum building (no longer extant) to the poor house. The facility, which would thereafter be known as Northview Hospital and Northview Home, would ultimately be used as a nursing home, which continued into the late-1980s. The easternmost and oldest wing of the facility was demolished in the early 2000s and the structure currently functions as the Waukesha County Huber Facility.