The building uncovers the history of Austin State Hospital

What began as the construction of a new 240-bed behavioral health hospital on the grounds of Austin State Hospital has become a small archaeological excavation in the hospital’s 161-year history.

Austin State Hospital, originally known as the Austin State Lunatic Asylum, was established by the Sixth Legislature in 1856 and opened its doors to a dozen patients in 1861. Its 95-acre campus, which exists next to the Hyde Park neighborhood, is the oldest. hospital of this type in the state and anchor of the state hospital system of 11 facilities.

What You Need to Know

  • The construction of a 240-bed hospital on the site of Austin State Hospital uncovered much of the hospital’s initial history
  • The state hospital is carefully collecting and conserving everything from furniture to gardening hoes to clothing dating back to 1860.
  • Professor King Davis and his students at the University of Texas will help the state hospital preserve its numerous records
  • Historian DD Clark said the artifacts are proof of the history of Austin State Hospital, which has functioned for decades as a self-sufficient community.

DD Clark, the historian of the state hospital system, describes the campus as a place that began receiving treatment but eventually transformed into its own self-sufficient community, with a farm and garden in place and a 306-acre state milk more extensive. and pig farm to the north, which was located approximately where the Lakeline Mall Home Depot now stands.

“This building came up first and, as mentioned before, the wings of this building where the residents lived,” Clark said, standing under the trees in front of the original hospital. “The middle part was mostly administrative offices, and on each side were the residents and individuals who worked here. And from there, different buildings emerged to add additional residents. ”

Horseshoes found in the work. (Spectrum News 1 / Kimberly Reeves)

Gardening tools found in the work. (Spectrum News 1 / Kimberly Reeves)

Silver found in the work. (Spectrum News 1 / Kimberly Reeves)

The location of the hospital, at approximately 40th Street and Guadeloupe, was considered “out of the country,” where residents could enjoy the fresh air and quiet life, Clark said.

“As the population grew, they built more buildings,” Clark said. “You would have your barns. You would have carpentry areas. Some places had furniture manufacturing. It was literally self-sufficient. “

So, looking at the exhibit of the artifacts unearthed at the site of the new hospital, you see horseshoes and mules. There are farming and gardening tools. Spoons recovered from the site still have “Austin Lunatic Asylum” stamped on the handle, as inappropriate as that term is now.

“It was thought, at the time, that fresh air was contributing to the recovery,” Clark said. “So the outdoors was incredibly important. It was all it took to happen in a recovery environment. Austin State Hospital put it all in line with Kirkbride’s theory of recovery.”

Kirkbride was Thomas Kirkbride, a Quaker surgeon turned psychologist who advocated a philosophy that treated the mentally ill with compassion and respect. Work, exercise, and routine were highly structured in the hospital, according to the Texas State History Association. Some neighbors washed and scrubbed. Others did agriculture and harvesting. The most functioning patients often worked as members of the hospital staff.

Over the decades, the number of residents at the Austin State Hospital site, often referred to as ASH, has grown to a population of up to 2,800 patients scattered across the property’s many buildings. In 1940, it was large enough to have its own school district. He finally added Texas Confederate House residents.

“You’ll find a lot of these buildings are patient care buildings,” ASH superintendent Stacey Thompson said. “Everyone had a very specific population. So we would have an adult building that would be here for short stays. We would have another for adults who needed geriatric care. All of these different needs have been spread across the hospital. “

Originally segregated, ASH was integrated between 1958 and 1965. As outpatient clinics and community centers opened in the 1960s and 1970s, the population began to decline. In the 1980s, many of the patients at the site were transferred to off-site treatment through the Austin Mental Health-Mental Retardation. People would go through ASH to receive treatment, but less than 500 lived on the spot.

Now, as the idea of ​​recovery and recovery setup has evolved, the idea of ​​a single site for recovery has emerged: the $ 305 million reconfigured behavioral health center and 240 beds. Construction of the facility began in October 2019 and will be completed in November 2023.

Thompson did not expect the new construction, which will come in collaboration with the psychiatry department of Dell Medical School, to discover so much history. But as she did, Thompson committed herself and her staff to preserving the hospital’s long-term history, with the help of Dr. King Davis and her students at the University of Texas School of Information.

“I didn’t know it, when we started designing the building years and years and years ago … I thought,‘ Oh, this is such a great thing, ’but I had no idea what we would find,” Thompson said. “I had no idea we were going to branch out into this piece where we would really keep what was here before, and we were going to be able to take it all forward. It was unexpected and great.”

The excavation at the new hospital site reached a depth of 10 meters. Pieces of the story discovered at the site were as small as a single straight pin or button and as large as household furniture, children’s toys and sewing machines, Clark said. It’s like discovering a portion of history frozen in time, much of it coinciding with the Census records of the time.

“Everything talks about the human nature of the individuals who lived here,” Clark said. “Yes, it’s a story about Austin State Hospital. But the message of this story is about a community, a society, where people recover. There was no separation of families, workers and neighbors.”

The building uncovers the history of Austin State Hospital

Source link The building uncovers the history of Austin State Hospital

Back to top button