Southern Ohio Lunatic Asylum, Dayton Ohio

Date added: September 29, 2015 Categories: Ohio Hospital

State of Ohio second major institution for the insane. Plans for the building were based on the first uniform plan of hospital construction, developed by Dr. Thatias Kirkbride of Philadelphia, a knowledgeable expert on asylum architecture who had traveled throughout England. He studied the defects of the European model and devised plans, formulated in a series of 26 presentations, which were formally adopted by the Association of Superintendents of Institutions. This building layout became a prototype for most of the mental hospitals built in the 1800's.

The Kirkbride plan consisted of an administration building, to be used for offices, store-rooms and kitchen, as well as a residence for the superintendent and medical officers. On either side of the administration building are wings, each to be segregated by sex. The wings terminate in cross sections which gave accomodations to water closets, clothing rooms and bathrooms, while at right angles from the cross sections are other wings. This design could be extended indefinitely.

In some instances four sets of longitudinal wings and cross sections were arranged for the care of different classes of patients. The theory was that convalescents and quiet patients would occupy the wards close to the administration building. Patients in an intermediate state would occupy the wards nearest the convalescent ward and patients who suffered more severe excitement or were especially objectionable by reason of noisy outcries or turbulent conduct were placed as far away from other patients and from the administrative building as possible. A more recent administrator of the institution, however, describes the design as functioning to minimize the dangers inherent in mass movement of patients to common areas, containing movement basically within the wards rather than using routes outside the ward areas. Each ward was complete in itself. By means of miniature railways with provision cars and a series of dumb waiters, it was possible to supply food from a central kitchen adjacent to the administration building to the individual ward dining rooms. Large common dining rooms were later added to each wing and the ward dining areas converted to bedrooms.

As a result of the Dayton building, similar institutions were constructed in almost every state in the union. Introduction of this innovative design and many other subsequent improvements to the theory of mental health care environment, put into practice by Southern Ohio Lunatic Asylum superintendents, placed the Dayton institution at the forefront of asylum care in the United States for many years.

The elaborate Victorian structure was a great source of community pride. It was an excellent example of a self contained community with its own gas, electric and water facilities, off-site working farm, on-site cannery, employee housing facilities, livestock facilities and main line railroad tracks.

The site of the building is one of the most beautiful in Ohio and overlooks the City of Dayton and the entire Miami Valley Area. The Dayton State Hospital was at one time an accredited training center for student nurses.