Historic Structures

Northern Ohio Lunatic Asylum - Cleveland State Hospital, Cleveland Ohio

Date added: May 12, 2022 Categories: Ohio Hospital

This was one of the few remaining great institutional buildings which testify to the burgeoning Victorian social consciousness. While no longer suitable for carrying out modern theories of mental illness and rehabilitation, such a structure is simultaneously a perfect expression of nineteenth century faith in progress and reason, and what must now be considered out-dated notions concerning insanity. As expressive and symbolic architecture it belongs to the same family as the State Penitentiary at Columbus, University Hall of the Ohio State University, and the State Reformatory at Mansfield. It is part institution, part fortress and part prison.

The Northern Ohio Lunatic Asylum was opened in Newburgh in 1855. It was the second in the state of Ohio, after the asylum in Columbus. The original building was destroyed by fire in 1872, and had to be rebuilt. The building contractor was John Gill, but it is unlikely that he was also the designer.

This is a vast three-story institutional building of stone masonry and frame construction in the High Victorian Gothic style, with an 800 foot long front facing northeast on Mill Creek. The tall central block has two towers with pyramidal top-heavy roofs characteristic of the style. In front of the towers are large fourth-story gables with traceried Gothic windows. The entrance at the center of the central block has been remodeled with a modern addition. Flanking wings spread out from the central block in two stages, with the end pavilions projecting forward so that they imply a partially enclosed quadrangle. In the center of each stage of both wings is an octagonal tower with a truncated pyramidal roof. The upper stages of these towers have been removed. The stonework is square and simple, so that the effect of the various blocks is that of solid geometric masses of masonry. The window pattern emphasizes the cell-like character of the interior space. The windows are covered with wire mesh. To the rear a number of subsidiary buildings are attached to the main block. Some of these are simple three-story red brick rectangular blocks, with segmental arched windows, and hood molding and corbelling in brick. This main building with its attached parts is in the center of a group of other buildings of every succeeding date.

Studies were done as to whether such building could be renovated and used in the future for departmental purposes. Due to its age, size and construction, renovation and remodeling to meet modern standards and building codes would be economically unfeasible. Proposals to retain and renovate parts of the building were found to be not feasible due to the extreme cost of such actions.

Local opinion surveys found that the building carried with it the stigma of a "lunatic asylum". The building was demolished in January 1978

Northern Ohio Lunatic Asylum - Cleveland State Hospital, Cleveland Ohio

Northern Ohio Lunatic Asylum - Cleveland State Hospital, Cleveland Ohio