The Institute of Living

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The Institute of Living is a residential psychiatric facility in Hartford, Connecticut, which merged with Hartford Hospital in 1994. The hospital was built in 1823, and was opened to admissions in 1824.[1] Eli Todd was its first director.[2] The hospital cost $12,000 to build and could serve up to 40 patients at a time. It was the first hospital of any kind established in Connecticut and the third psychiatric hospital in the United States. The hospital's 35 acres (14 ha) campus was landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1860s.

The hospital was originally called the Connecticut Retreat for the Insane. Its name changed several times, but it was often referred to as the Hartford Retreat.[1]

During its 175th anniversary, the Institute of Living opened an exhibition titled "Myths, Minds and Medicine" on the history of the Institute and psychiatric treatment in general.

In the 1940s the Burlingame Research Building was constructed on the northwest corner of the IOL grounds, which contained operating suites. Lobotomies were performed there until the 1960s. These operating rooms were constructed because neurosurgeons were not allowed to perform lobotomies at Hartford Hospital, which is located across Retreat Avenue. Special elevators were installed in the building to transport patients without jarring bumps from the operating rooms on one floor to the recovery rooms on a different floor. Today, no research is performed in the Research Building.

It has shared the "retreat" moniker with the Brattleboro Retreat and the York Retreat, which was the naming inspiration for both institutions.


The Institute of Living was one of the primary treatment centers in the United States for Catholic priests, including those engaging in pedophile activity. The Institute treated hundreds of priests over the course of several decades. Many priests were transferred to the Institute to avoid discovery and prosecution. The Institute of Living maintains it was deceived by the Catholic Church, that the Church concealed information from doctors, and that it bears no responsibility for the conspiracy to perpetuate priest abuse.[3][4]


It was here that Gene Tierney was subjected to 26 shock treatments, which she later claimed robbed her of significant portions of her memory.

The institute treated silent movie star Clara Bow after she attempted suicide in 1944 and checked into The Institute of Living, in 1949, where she underwent electro-shock therapy and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Marsha Linehan, the creator of dialectical behavior therapy, was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the Institute of Living and subjected to involuntary electroshock therapy and seclusion when she was a teenager, according to a June 2011 New York Times article.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Connecticut Retreat for the Insane". Historic Asylums. Retrieved 2008-01-15.
  2. ^ Leach, Charles (February–April 2004). "Hospital Rock". Connecticut Explored. Retrieved 2008-01-15.
  3. ^ Oppenheimer, Mark (9 Apr 2010). "A Psychologist Steeped in Treatment of Sexually Active Priests". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  4. ^ Rich, Eric (24 Mar 2002). "Doctors: Church Used Us". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  5. ^ Carey, Benedict (2011-06-23). "Expert on Mental Illness Reveals Her Own Struggle". The New York Times.


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Coordinates: 41°45′06″N 72°40′54″W / 41.7516°N 72.6818°W / 41.7516; -72.6818