Topeka State Hospital

Year(s) Listed:
Location Class:
Built: 1900s | Abandoned: 1997
Status: Demolished (2010)
Contributor: Kansas Preservation Alliance

Photo by: Ralena Gordon of www.theemptyplaces.com

It was determined that Topeka needed a mental institution around the 1870s, the state legislature would put up $25,000 under the condition that they wouldn’t have to buy the plot of land for it. Thanks to the donation of $12,000 from both Topeka and Shawnee County 80 acres of land was set aside for the massive project. John G. Haskell, a popular architect, got to work on the blueprints and construction and by the late 1870s, Topeka Insane Asylum was in business. The name was changed shortly after in 1901 to Topeka State Hospital. The first superintendent was Dr. Barnard Eastman who was the former superintendent at Worcester, MA asylum. Up until 1919, it was required that all patients be admitted only through a court order which Dr. Eastman argued that the mentally ill were sick, not criminal and these trials were not fair treatment. He projected an image of a facility that took an engaging hands-on approach instead of a medicinal route to healing. But it soon came to light that that was not the case. The state run facility was officially opened on June 1, 1879 with its first two patients and quickly welcomed more.


Demolition of the historic Center Building of the former Topeka State Hospital began Tuesday, said Ron Harbaugh, spokesman for Topeka Unified School District. In February 2009, USD 501 acquired 152 acres of land and 30 buildings near S.W. 6th and MacVicar, which was home to the former hospital. The district purchased the land from the state for $2.2 million.

The five-story Center Building, with its turrets and balconies, is the most recognizable and iconic structure on the campus.

Chris Albert, general director of central services/facilities planning for USD 501, and his staff inspected each building to determine the condition of the walls, floors, roof and other areas, Harbaugh said in a news release.

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