The Athens Asylum
Location: Athens, Ohio
Status: Closed 1993
Originally monikered the Athens Asylum for the Insane, this massive institution first opened its doors on January 9, 1874. The state and federal government had purchased the more than 1000 acres of land from the Coates family, whose farm had previously occupied the spot, and spent six years building the hospital. Giant asylums in the Kirkbride style were going up all over America at this time because of the number of Civil War veterans suffering from what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder. If you visit the cemeteries behind the building you will find a large number of the nameless graves marked with metal veterans’ plaques from the Civil War.
The Athens building had 544 patient rooms. When it opened it housed around 200 patients. They were offered church services and plays, and were often free to roam the grounds. Some patients tended the farms and orchards. Nurses trained at the Athens State Hospital School of Nursing inside the hospital and were able to live there while they cared for its other inhabitants. The late nineteenth century was a good time for the mentally ill in America; progressive policies, modeled after European methods, gave people confidence in the way their loved ones were treated in the public asylums.
The downside of the progress accomplished by the Kirkbride plan was the increasing popularity of the asylums. In Athens, as elsewhere, it was common for families to drop elderly relatives off at the hospital when they could no longer afford to care for them. Parents committed teenagers for insignificant acts of rebellion. The homeless would use the hospital for temporary shelter. The population of the Athens Asylum shot up from 200 to nearly 2000 in the early 1900s. Overcrowding led to the sharing of patient rooms and a severe decline in the quality of treatment administered by a staff which had barely been increased in size since 1874.
On December 1, 1978, a female patient named Margaret Schilling disappeared from one of the active wards. On January 12, 1979, they found her body in the abandoned top floor of ward N. 20. This ward had been used for sick, infectious patients, and had been closed down for years. Before she died she took off her clothes and folded them neatly nearby. After nearly three decades; Her death left a permanent stain on the floor, as shown below.
This Asylum is closed to the general public; however, cemetery walks are available. Schedule your tour today by calling 740-597-1485
Do not trespass on this property, all violators will be arrested.