An oral history project is in progress, collecting information about the old Toledo State Hospital or Toledo Mental Health Center. If you worked, visited, had family there or were a patient or neighbor, and you have stories to share, please visit the Toledo State Hospital Cemetery Reclamation Project web site at www.toledostatehospitalcemetery.org. Especially interested in pre-1985. I'll answer any questions here that anyone might have. If you know of anyone who has information, the further back, the better, please have them contact us. We're also looking for old pictures, furniture and artifacts.
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I will talk to my mom-in-law this week and get back to you. She worked with clients in Cottage E for a long time, pre-85.
I used to ice skate and fish at their ponds when I was a kid and at times you could hear screams coming from some of the cottages that had bars on the porches.Also, I was once part of a show the Boy Scouts put on for some of the patients.I remeber a guy in the front row juggling balls the whole time we were putting on our act.It was a little spooky at times with some of the strange people that were walking around the Hospital grounds.
A couple people here who worked at that hospital may have stories as suggested in this January 2011 Toledo Talk thread titled Anyone Here Ever Work at Toledo State Hospital? Comments: 20
We'd love to connect with them. It's important to document the history of treatment of mental illness, both good and bad, to have a better understanding of the importance of the changes and advances that have taken place over the years. The hospital still exists as Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital, and provides excellent care for a much smaller group of around 90-100 people at a time. This compares to over 3,000 in the 1950's.
"The hospital still exists as Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital, and provides excellent care for a much smaller group of around 90-100 people at a time. This compares to over 3,000 in the 1950's."
The rest of us 2,900 patients are on meds that they didn't have in the 50's.LOL!
Funny, but true! Psychotropic meds came into use in the mid 50's, and was an important reason that state hospitals all over the country started to get smaller. That and a lot more community services. Mental illness is a medical condition, and medication for some plays a big part in making them better!
I have some very interesting history related to that hospital. My father was "Chief Engineer" (his title at the time) at a local hospital from 1952 to 1983. This is what I remember as a child of about, roughly 14. In about 1959 my Dad was contacted by then Governor Michael Disalle He was asked to visit the hospital under the guise of inspecting the integrity of the physical structure and all mechanical heating, lighting etc., as he was a professional expert in that field. His real purpose was to document the welfare, safety and living conditions of the patients and their treatment by the staff. Originally my Dad had planned to have me type up his notes and reports, as he couldn't have his secretary at work, or any else for that matter, see them.
Conditions were terrible. My Dad was shocked. The patients were badly mistreated by the staff. My Dad witnessed patients being lined up naked and hosed down instead of showering or bathing individually in private. There were all manner of abusive restraints. There was little in the way of real therapy or meaningful patient activities. In one visit (he made several) my Dad was badly bitten by an out of control patient. He was treated for the bite in secret by a physician friend of the family. I know there were other things my Dad saw, but kept from me because of my age. The plan to have me type his notes and reports never happened because it was pretty bad stuff. Shortly after my Dad hand delivered his reports to Disalle (he "inspected" more than one state psychiatric facility) the push began to de-institutionalize the mentally ill all over the State and particulary from this hospital. Ohio was not alone in the poor treatment of the mentally ill housed in "asylums". It was a national problem and deinstitutionalization happend throughout the US.
My Dad died in 1986. My Mom died in 1992. My bother and only sibling, passed away this last February. This makes me the only living person I know of who knows this story, but I suspect there may be others. I'm glad to have the opportunity to write it here. I sure this must be upsetting to some readers here. But, it was what it was.
The m-i-l must have been part of that push to get the residents out of the facility. She worked with them to get them ready to live on their own and went all over town, looking for decent places for them to live. She was hired to teach them to manage their personal belongings, I believe, she was not a therapist or anything, just a good woman who liked to help people and organize. I'll make a point of seeing her tonite. She's 90 and lives on her own so we need to get this down. How do you want us to relay the stories to you, jdub?
Hi, just went to the website and the link you have for contacting you does not work, it says that the default mail client is not installed. what do I need?
Nana and Holland, we'd love to talk with you. Given Nana's note that there was a problem, give me over night to get with our web site guy to get this fixed if it's on our end. Keep trying though. I'll provide an agency number if need be, but am trying to avoid that. Holland, what you know if very important to record. Would like to talk to you more. Nana, same re your mil.
I'll be happy to provide my Dad's name and his credentials. It would be a good idea to search newpapers archives from around that period. I also remember there was news reporting about what Disalle planned to do as a result of the information he received. A good place to start would be the Columbus Dispatch and The Blade. I wish I had more details but I was pretty young. I have a vivid memory of the bite. I also remember my Dad's being very, very upset for quite sometime about the whole thing. What he saw hit him pretty hard.
For news archives, old issues of the Blade are scanned on Google news. They go all the way back to the 1880s.
The search function for the archives was altered recently and its a lot less user-friendly, however the archives can still be searched via Google. I use the function pretty often.
I don't have any personal stories about the hospital, as I didn't grow up in Toledo. However, I'd be happy to try digging for some information in the Blade archives, if someone can give a date range and maybe a few keywords to search for.
(I enjoy looking at old issues of the Blade online anyhow - its a fascinating glimpse of local history, especially for someone who didn't grow up here like me.)
jdub, I talked with her, wow. Her own father was commited there after she was out of the house and she just found out some more details from her brother this week about that. We talked but it really would be better to be typing as she's talking so I can get it right. I mentioned giving you her email and she was ok with that, but not sure how much typing she's up for in repsonse, so lemme know how you want to work it, I'll be glad to do anything needed.
The pics on your site are really interesting, but no pic of my current base of operations, the dietary building, probably built with the new recieving building in 1966 across from the steam plant. I was REALLY interested to know what that building was used for. It's now the UTMC Medical Records Dept, but we were told our offices were once a meat locker! :)
mom2 - It had to be close to 1959. I was no more than 14 ( born in 1945.) I dont remember reading any of the coverage but I do remember my Dad had a couple of newspapers and one was from Columbus. Try the key words "asylum" and "hospital"? Back then there wasn't a lot of today's sensitivities about describing the mentally ill or their situations. It was often referred to as the insane asylum.
Thanks Holland - I'll try searching the archives this weekend. If I find any articles, I'll post the link to the archive here.
(The Google news archives are my one geeky guilty pleasure - the newsprint is scanned in, so you can see the actual image of the article as it appeared in the paper, advertisements and all. Such an interesting glimpse of history. I'm so bummed that Google has discontinued updating these archives, but at least they've left the old images out there for now.)
I was the one who posted the thread jr. mentioned. There's quite a bit of information in the local history dept. at the library downtown, too. BTW, there are some really nice photos of the hospital, old postcards, etc. you can see. I spent several hours going through the files at the library. I worked there a couple months in 1969, and a couple more in 1970.
I found this:
There is apparently some mention of Governor Disalle's concern about conditions in Ohio's mental hospitals in his biography:
Call Me Mike: A Political Biography of Michael V. Disalle
by Richard G. Zimmermen
Its in the blurb for the book on Amazon.com
If the newpaper link doesn't work the it's this:
The Journal Tribune
Marysville, Ohio Monday May 4th, 1959. Front Page
Here's a link to the Toledo Blade, May 4, 1959 front page:
There are a couple of articles on it - one containing information similar to the Marysville article holland linked above regarding the statewide report. But also 2 smaller articles specifically about the hospital in Toledo.
That pretty much sums up what I remember. I wish I knew how many institutions my Dad actually went to. I know it was more than one, but that's all I remember. My Dad was "Chief Engineer" of St. Luke's Hospital. When he began it was located on Robinwood and Delaware in downtown Toledo. I was in the first or second grade. He stayed at St. Luke's for the remainder of his career, retiring to consult a few years after St. Luke's moved to Maumee.
hen I worked there, the city was in the process of shutting down some local nursing homes, after the blade did a series on them. Most, as I remember, were in the Collingwood area. These patients came in filthy dirty, unshaven, and most had lice. These folks looked the people the Allies liberated in WW2. In the area I worked some days, we had to offer shaves, and/or had to shave the bedridden patients, three times a week. I think the same rule covered baths, too. We had to submit notarized statements saying we could not strike any patient, even in self defense. Male attendants could not enter a womens' ward under ANY circumstances, unless we had a female nurse or attendant with us. An older, male attendant told me I should have been there in the old days, because they used to take turns watching the female patients shower, up close and personal. All the attendants agreed with one point. They said the job was 100% easier since the patients were doped up with thorazine, compazine, etc.
Hey, you guys are great! You've given us places to go for more info. Thanks for doing the research. And again, for anyone willing to talk with the nursing students who are conducting the interviews, please go to the website: www.toledostatehospitalcemetery.org
It's also a great place to read more about the hospital and the cemetery project. This all started with the need to bring attention to the 2 forgotten cemeteries, now owned by UTMC. One's behind the new Bowsher, and the other is on UTMC camus. 2,000 people are buried there who used to be patients.
Jdub, that link sends me to a huge list of nothing but links, which one should I click? My mil is really interested in talking to someone or sending her thoughts to someone. thanks!
nana - It looks like their web site is down. I got in the other day and it was quite nice. There was a link for TT posters right on the front page, which brought up their email. I responded in the email with the information I had. I have not gotten a reply however. An acknowledgement would have been nice.
They have "work days" scheduled where volunteers go and search for lost graves. Its a nice project, to honor and respect the memories of the "inmates" who died while residents and were buried on hospital grounds. Some resident/patients were buried in just numbered graves - no names. Reading some history explains that some were so gravely mentally ill and without any family when hospitalized, that they did not know their own name and the staff just had to list them as John Doe #XXXX. I never knew.
Yah, I know about the graveyards, the same thing went on down in BG at the 'Orphans Home', which is now part of the historical museum. I did follow that link the other day, but it's Outlook and I'm not installing it, so I copied the addy and wrote him from my Yahoo box. No response here either. He has a couple of live fish on the line, hope they get the website fixed and respond soon. :)
I hope they don't ignore you nana. Oral first person histories are invaluable. If not recorded, they are either lost forever or subject to retelling with inevitable inaccuracies.
OK, the website works again, gonna check it out and see if I can set something up. :)
By far, the most interesting stuff I read, was the collection of old newspaper articles at the Downtown Library. And a photo of the intersection at Detroit and Arlington, taken in 1904. There was a set of railroad tracks going north and south along Detroit Ave., and no homes or buildings at all. What was later the Toledo State Hospital Main Grounds-was in 1904, a huge forested lot, like one would see at Oak Openings. In this photo, you can see a few of the chimneys rising from the original cottages, but not the cottages themselves. BTW, this particular picture is an aerial shot, which must have been taken from a hot air balloon, as there were no airplanes in 1904.
Sorry for the delay. Web site is back up - and I've connected with Nana, and hope to interview her mom in a few days. If anyone else has stories to tell about the old hospital, or is interested in helping find sunken burial markers, go to the web site and let us know. We have a work day this Saturday from 10:30 to 12:30, right behind Bowsher High School. Volunteers are welcome.