Tag Archives: Broughton Hospital

Could Healthy Bodies Lead to Healthy Minds?

Broughton Hospital, courtesy the University of North Carolina

Broughton Hospital, courtesy the University of North Carolina

Early specialists in mental health (alienists) firmly believed that patients’ physical environment impacted their minds. Asylum superintendents tried to site their institutions in the countryside (thought to be healthier than cities) and advocated for buildings that were spacious, well-ventilated, and accessible to clean water. They urged patients to spend time outdoors working if possible, or simply strolling through landscaped grounds if they could or would not work. Before asylums became too overcrowded for this routine to continue, superintendents seemed to get results with this idea of fresh air and a restful environment.

An 1891 article about Broughton Hospital in Morganton, NC extolled the benefits of its country environment. “The present year shows the number of its cures to be fifty per cent. of it’s [sic] admissions, which last numbered 148 persons,” the writer proclaimed. Even more astounding was the institution’s death rate of only four per cent–half the death rate at most other institutions. “No better testimonial can be offered as to the unrivaled excellence of the Piedmont climate than these simple figures furnish.”

Fire Brigade at Broughton Hospial, Staffed by Patients and Employees, courtesy Broughton Hospital Public Safety

Fire Brigade at Broughton Hospial, Staffed by Patients and Employees, courtesy Broughton Hospital Public Safety

The writer went on to say that though the managers of the Hospital used the “most advanced and scientific methods known to the moderns and utterly discard the wretched system of physical restraint,” they did not attribute their impressive success from “any marked superiority in their treatment over all the rest of their professional brethren.”

Post Card of Broughton State Mental Hospital

Post Card of Broughton State Mental Hospital

Instead, the “eloquent figures” quoted (particularly the death rate) showed “what this pure atmosphere will do for men, half dead when they come here.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedintumblr

Economic Impact

Portion of Building and Grounds of Insane Asylum in Lexington, courtesy University of Kentucky

Insane asylums provided regular payrolls to local economies, and often needed additional labor for special projects. As a government facility, the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians had to bid out almost all its work and supply needs, but that did not mean that the city of Canton did not enjoy the benefits of those projects. Available records do not show who actually performed all the labor associated with the asylum’s projects, but it is likely that any construction company ended up using local labor for some of its work.

The asylum’s original buildings included the main building, a pump and power house, a horse barn and a cow barn. No specific mention is made beyond “small outbuildings,” but the facility probably included a number of small sheds and storage buildings as well. In December, 1907, Gifford paid a carpenter $3/day for six days, to repair wind damage to a horse barn, cow barn, and carriage house; this would amount to about $431 today. Just a month later, he spent $75 to install window guards on the windows of patient wards, about $1,830 today. From 1900 to 1907, the government spent $80,882.03 on buildings and similar hard structures (versus maintenance)–$1,460,000 in today’s dollars.

As more patients were added, more buildings were needed and constructed. Ironically, each of the two superintendents who ran Canton Asylum wanted special buildings which they never received. Gifford particularly wished to separate noisy and violent patients from quieter ones, feeling that housing them together was bound to be excessively irritating for his quiet patients. Dr. Hummer wanted a separate epileptic cottage.

New Orleans Insane Asylum

Broughton Hospital, North Carolina

______________________________________________________________________________________

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedintumblr