Osawatomie State Hospital
The first territorial legislature in 1855 passed an act providing for the
appointment of guardians for persons of unsound mind, and in 1859 the
provisions of the law were extended to include habitual drunkards. Guardians of
such persons were required to assume the management of any estate owned by
the ward, and to report to the proper judicial authorities at stated times.
The first step toward the erection of an asylum for the insane of Kansas was the
passage of the act of March 2, 1863, naming William Chestnut of Miami county, I.
Hiner of Anderson county, and James Hanway of Franklin county as
commissioners "to determine the location of the State Insane Asylum of the
State of Kansas." The commissioners were somewhat restricted in the selection
of a site, the act confining them to "some point within the township of
Osawatomie township, in the county of Miami."
It was further provided that a tract of land, not less than 160 acres, should
constitute the site of the proposed institution, and that title to this land should
be secured by donation. No appropriation was made for the erection of buildings
until after the location was selected and approved.
On Oct. 17, 1863, the commissioners reported as follows: "We, the undersigned
appointed commissioners to locate the state insane asylum, met at Osawatomie,
Kan., on the 7th day of October, A. D., 1863, and selected the southeast
quarter of section 2, township 18, range 22, for the reason that this was the
only eligible site where a proper title could be obtained with the means at
command of the township, and other material advantages for the establishment
of such an institution."
The tract of land selected by the commissioners is situated about a mile north of
the city of Osawatomie, on the opposite side of the Marais des Cygnes river. It
was donated by the people of Osawatomie township and some years later an
additional 160 acres were purchased by the state, giving the hospital a full half
section of land.
The work of the commissioners was approved, and on Feb. 14, 1865, an act was
passed providing for the appointment of three trustees by the governor, only
one of whom could be a resident of Miami county. The first building was erected
in 1860. It was a small two-story frame structure and cost about $500. Toward
the latter part of the year the institution was opened for the reception of
patients, with Dr. C. O. Gause as superintendent and Mrs. Gause as matron.
At last Kansas had an insane asylum. Two years later the two wards—one for
men and the other for women—each accommodating 12 patients, were filled, and
the state was compelled to erect additional buildings for the accommodation of
more patients. From that time the growth of the institution has been steady,
until in 1910 the property held by it was valued at $1,000,000.
The farm has been increased to 720 acres; a main building includes the
administration offices, the chapel, which seats 600 people, dormitories for a large
number of the employees, and quarters for about 450 patients; the Knapp and
Adair buildings, similar in design and equipment, each accommodate 300 chronic
cases, the former being set apart for men and the latter for women; and there
are shops, boiler house, electric light and power plant, ice house, bakery,
laundry, barns, green houses, a reservoir for a water supply, etc.
In 1901 a new infirmary was erected at a cost of $50,000, and since then the
institution has been supplied with a tuberculosis pavilion. The original building of
1866 has been removed to the rear of the east wing of the main building, where
it is used as a residence for the head farmer and is known as "The Lodge." There
is also an amusement hall.
Transcribed from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history
The Old Main Building was built in 1869 at a cost of $20,000. It was built to
replace all of the existing structures on the Osawatomie State Hospital grounds.
It was built exactly to the specifications of the "Kirkbride Plan", having a central
building and two wings, swept back in sections.
The central structure, which is the only part of the building remaining today, is
five stories high. It has an auditorium with a stage in it to provide patients with
their entertainment. It had a balcony looking down on the stage too. The central
part of the building held the workers, nurses, and the superintendent. Its wings
were east and west and they were tore down in 1971. The wings were 300 feet
long each with them being swept back every 50 feet or so. The wings were two
stories high and accommodated about 700 patients in each wing. It is one
mammoth of a structure looking down over Marais des Cygnes River down on the
small town of Osawatomie, Kansas it looks like a castle from the town.
The Old Main Building is the oldest Mental Health Building surviving west of the
Mississippi River. In May of 2002, Kansas State Governor, Governor Bill Graves
signed a bill that would start bids to demolish the building.
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