Central State Hospital (Indiana)

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Central State Hospital Old Pathology Building
Established 1896
Location 2800–3300 blocks of West Washington Street
Indianapolis, Indiana
Website Indiana Medical History Museum

Central State Hospital, formally referred to as the Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane was a psychiatric treatment hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana.


The Indiana legislature authorized the establishment of a "hospital for the insane" as early as 1827, but actual construction of a facility was delayed for several years. The Indiana Hospital for the Insane finally opened in November, 1848 with a total of five patients. At that time, the hospital consisted of one brick building situated on a large parcel of land of over 100 acres (0.40 km2) on Washington Street, west of downtown Indianapolis. In 1889 the hospital was renamed the Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane. After 1926 it was known as Central State Hospital, and by 1928, physicians cared for nearly 3,000 patients.

From 1848 to 1948, the hospital grew yearly until it encompassed two massive ornate buildings (one for male and one for female patients); a pathological department; a "sick" hospital for the treatment of physical ailments; a farm colony where patients engaged in "occupational therapy"; a chapel; an amusement hall complete with an auditorium, billiards, and bowling alleys; a bakery; a fire house; a cannery manned by patients; and idyllic gardens and fountains.

The more ornate of the two massive buildings came to be known as "the Seven Steeples". This building, which housed female patients, was designed using the Kirkbride Plan for mental healthcare facilities.

For a half-century, this complex buildings and gardens housed mentally ill patients from all regions of Indiana. By 1905, however, the state had built mental health institutions in Evansville, Logansport, Madison, and Richmond, thereby relieving an overcrowded Central State Hospital of some of its patient load and leaving it to treat only those from the "central district", an area of 38 counties situated in the middle portion of the state. In 1950 patient population reached 2,500

By the early 1970s, most of the hospital's ostentatious Victorian-era buildings had been declared unsound and razed. The Men's Department Building (also a Kirkbride Plan struction) had been demolished already in 1941. In their place, the state constructed brick buildings of a nondescript, institutional genre. These modern buildings and the medical staff therein continued to serve the state's mentally ill until allegations of patient abuse and funding troubles sparked an effort to forge new alternatives to institutionalization which, in turn, led to the hospital's closure in 1994.

Current status[edit]

The 1886 Power Plant

The grounds of Central State Hospital were still largely vacant as of 2011. In place of the demolished Women's Ward (Seven Steeples) is a large lawn. There are approximately 10 buildings on the grounds that were associated with the hospital. The Pathology Department building, built in 1895, is well preserved and houses the Indiana Medical History Museum. The three more modern wards (Evans, Bolton, and Bahr) were built in 1974 when the others were demolished. The oldest building on the property is the old power house, built in 1886. The Administration building, which was built in 1938, is now most commonly associated with the hospital, although it never housed patients. In 2005, the Beckmann Theatre was granted temporary occupancy of the 1895 Laundry Building where it staged its production of "Asylum".[1] More recently, the building has been used for storing cars.

The Indiana State Archives, the Indiana State Library, and the Indiana Medical History Museum (housed in one of the hospital's remaining nineteenth-century edifices), are preserving the history of an institution that served the mentally ill of Indiana for 146 years.

Buildings on the Grounds of Central State

In March 2003, the city of Indianapolis purchased the property from the state for $400,000. The land that was acquired consists of 160 acres (0.65 km2) located on the city’s westside at the 2800-3300 blocks of West Washington Street.[2]

From WTHR 12/6/06- "Indianapolis - The city approved the sale Wednesday of the old Central State Hospital site to a developer. Eyewitness News partners at the Indianapolis Star report High Mark Development is buying the 160 acres (0.65 km2) for just over $2 million. The hospital for the mentally ill closed in 1994. The future of the site will include apartments, shops and green space."[3]

From IBJ 12.07.06- City gives OK to $2.1 million sale of Central State site
"Indianapolis' metropolitan development commission on Wednesday approved the sale of the 160-acre (0.65 km2) former Westside home of Central State Hospital. The buyer, a private joint venture called High Mark Development, will start negotiating with the city to find new uses for the site, which held a hospital for the mentally ill for nearly 150 years.''

From IBJ 05.01.07- City selling more Central State land
"A development team that bought 115 acres (0.47 km2) at the former site of Central State Hospital may soon buy another 33 acres (130,000 m2) from the city, at a cost of $223,500. Sound cheap? Mike Higbee, president of Development Concepts Inc. and one of the buyers, said the price reflects a need to clear the land and address environmental issues before development.''

From IBJ 08.13.07- Plans for Central State's rebirth taking shape
"Touring the expansive grounds of the former Central State Hospital west of downtown is like taking a trip back in time-evident by the crumbling buildings that are as dated as the site's original Hospital for the Insane name. But a redevelopment in the final stages of city approval could breathe new life into a 150-acre (0.61 km2) parcel surrounded by blighted neighborhoods to the east and north and Hispanic storefronts to the south along West Washington Street.''
For full articles see the IBJ Newsbank Archives

The site is also the subject of the 2006 film "Central State: Asylum for the Insane"[4] a documentary, produced and directed by independent filmmaker Dan T. Hall of Vizmo Films.[5] The institution and mental health history of the hospital is now under study by Indiana author, Nicole Kobrowski for a book to be released in Summer 2014.[6]

In late 2013, several buildings, including the former Administrative Building as well as the prominent Powerhouse, were purchased by a company known for refurbishing buildings otherwise left to waste. The project to turn the administrative building into student apartments began in January 2014, with students expected to move in by August 2014 for the fall semester. Several students were able to move in, but construction still continues in September of 2014. The building is now named Central State Mansion and withholds original features of the architecture as well as decorations suggestive of its history.


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ "Central State Reuse Study". City of Indianapolis. Archived from the original on March 2, 2008. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Central State grounds sold". Wthr.com. 6 December 2006. Retrieved 2015-03-01. 
  4. ^ "Central State (Video 2006)". IMDb.com. 21 October 2006. Retrieved 2015-03-01. 
  5. ^ "- Digital Story Telling". Vizmocity.com. Retrieved 2015-03-01. 
  6. ^ "Historic Indiana Ghost Walks & Tours". Unseenpress.com. Retrieved 2015-03-01. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°46′09″N 86°12′40″W / 39.7693°N 86.2112°W / 39.7693; -86.2112