A Brief History of Ohio’s Original Mental Health Facility

In Ohio’s early years it lacked a facility to treat those with mental illnesses. Unfortunately, anyone with mental illness who couldn’t be cared for at home were housed in local jails or in the Ohio Penitentiary, probably exacerbating their illness. Thankfully in 1835 the Ohio Lunatic Asylum was established through a bill passed by the Ohio General Assembly. This was the first state-supported hospital in Ohio. And was the first facility west of the Allegheny Mountains established to treat mental illness.

The asylum was built in the state capital of Columbus on a plot of 30 acres on East Broad Street. At the time it cost $61,000 to complete. In 1838 it opened and quickly became home to more than 100 patients.

The asylum was unique in that it did not turn away patients based on their family’s ability to pay for treatment and housing.  As other facilities were built throughout the state the facility renamed itself the Central Ohio Lunatic Asylum and for several years housed and treated more than three-hundred patients.

In November of 1868 the majority of the facility was destroyed by fire. Surviving patients were re-homed at the Ohio School for the Deaf but these patients were quickly sent home or to prisons.

The asylum was rebuilt on West Broad Street on 300 acres of land and was completed in 1877 (after seven years of construction). It cost 1.5 million dollars and was the largest structure in the US until the Pentagon was built in the 1940s.

The renamed Columbus Hospital for the Insane (eventually renamed to the kinder title of Columbus State Hospital in 1894) it followed the teachings of Thomas Kirkbride. By 1935 the hospital would be called home by almost 3,000 patients. The building had troubles with fluctuations in state funding and was demolished in the 1990’s to make space for office buildings.