When it opened in 1888, the Toledo State Hospital (originally Toledo Asylum), it was hailed as the state of the art in treatment of the insane. Moral treatment, which today could be described as milieu therapy on a grand scale, was the model of care. This model was supported by an architectural innovation called cottage plan.
The Toledo Asylum as it was then known was designed by Edward O. Fallis, one of Toledo’s most prominent architects of the time. The Asylum was designed around a detached ward or cottage plan. By 1887, at a cost of under $700,000, the initial building phase had been completed. There were thirty-four buildings, twenty of which were cottages that housed the less extreme cases, while six buildings - two infirm wards, two hospitals, and two strong wards - housed those considered more critically insane. The grounds featured man-made lagoons, and numerous buildings including an administration building, a working farm, an auditorium, a greenhouse, and a chapel. The maximum capacity of the entire project could house 1,800 patients.
The Toledo Asylum for the Insane opened in January of 1888. The first superintendent, Dr. Henry A. Tobey, believed in humane treatment of institutionalized patients. Dr. Tobey believed keeping patients busy and out of doors engaged in useful activities would keep them from dwelling on their problems. In the early years the majority of patients were transferred from other hospitals. By 1890, patients were brought in by court commitment from the community. When admitted, the patients were given a thorough physical examination, diagnosed and classified under four types of mental disorders: congenital, mania, melancholia, or dementia. In 1888, the average number of residents during the year was 734.
In 1894 the Toledo Asylum for the Insane officially changed its name to the Toledo State Hospital. The Mission Statement and Philosophy of the Asylum read, “The secret of their care and keeping them contented is to have them lead as normal a life as possible, with good clean, healthy surroundings, plenty of nourishing food, and fresh air.”
The hospital was a vibrant community, and largely self-sufficient. By 1899, 240 acres were under cultivation for essential garden and farm produce. Patients worked on the farm, raising crops and produce and pork, poultry, and dairy products. The female patients worked at making rugs, weaving, sewing and fancy work, and assisted with housework, cooking and other daily tasks. The men did much of the work in improving the park-like grounds, which became an attractive destination for visitors.
Over time, underfunding and overcrowding, aging buildings, and changing political priorities eroded the model, and it became a place for segregating the mentally ill. By the 1940’s the buildings, now 50 years old, were crumbling, obsolete and full of fire hazards. By the 1950’s the hospital population swelled to 3,500 patients.
In the 1960’s the model of for the care of the mentally ill took a sudden turn. Effective drug treatments were found. Specialized facilities for people with intellectual disabilities and the frail elderly led to a decline in the number of patients deemed “insane”. Antibiotic therapy led to a sharp decrease in the number of patients with neurosyphilis, then called paresis.
The era of segregation of the mentally ill was coming to an end. The Asylum began moving patients off the property in the early 1970s, and the population decreased from 3500 to about 300, and with the shift to community-based care with outpatient services, and the transition was complete. The name of the Hospital was changed to Toledo Mental Health Center.
Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital, located on the same site, is the current treatment center and psychiatric hospital in Toledo and is owned and operated by the state of Ohio.
A new book about Toledo State Hospital is now available.
It was written by Kimberly Brownlee, member of the Toledo State Hospital Memory Project. This shows the history of the psychiatric hospital in Toledo, Ohio in photos. Each photo is accompanied by interesting information about Toledo State Hospital .
This book is available for a donation to Toledo State Hospital Memory Project $22.00 or more, and on Amazon
Hospital Photo Gallery
Thank you to the Toledo Lucas County Public Library for permission to use Images from the Images In Time Collection