Iowa August 22, 2017
5 Creepy Asylums Iowa That Are Still Standing And Still Disturbing
Iowa has an interesting history when it comes to asylums. These amazing and giant buildings are still standing. Some are even open for tours by appointment.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. Johnson County Poor Farm & Asylum, 4811 Melrose Avenue, Iowa City
At one point in Iowa's history, every county had its own Poor Farm. The Johnson County Poor Farm, built in 1855, offers us a unique glimpse into the way we used to care for our most vulnerable citizens. In the 1820s, the United States established that it was the duty of the local governments to care for the mentally ill. Often, the very poorest citizens were also residents of these establishments. In the mid-1800s, the standard of care for people suffering from mental illness was, "hard work and fresh air."
People who lived at the county poor farms did farm chores as they were able. Until the 1960s, this Poor Farm was a dairy and crop producing acreage. Today, the Johnson County Poor Farm remains intact, including several outbuildings, a brick cistern, and the restored 1859 "First Johnson County Asylum" wing. Although it is unused, this place serves as an important historical site. Visitors can tour with an appointment. To learn more about seeing this Iowa Asylum, call 319-351-5738.
2. Edinburgh Manor, 13241 E23 County Home Rd., Scotch Grove
Edinburgh Manor is the second asylum on the site in Scotch Grove. The first was demolished in the early 1900s. Many residents of the first establishment died of questionable causes. The graves of 80 residents are in the cemetery behind Edinburgh Manor. The current building, constructed in 1910, was in operation until 2010. It was originally a place to house the insane, extremely poor, and the elderly. The building is a paranormal investigation site and was the feature in an episode of the TV show, Ghost Adventures.
3. Independence State Hospital
A growing need for mental health facilities in Iowa after the Civil War caused the Iowa legislature to put aside money to build an additional hospital for the insane. The only facility in the state was in Mount Pleasant at the time, and it was overcrowded. Independence State Hospital opened in 1873. Visitors can tour the building, including the "Days of Yore" wing featuring a somewhat disturbing look back through time at how society used to treat people suffering from mental illness. To schedule a tour, call 319-334-2583.
4. Clarinda State Hospital, 1800 N 16th St., Clarinda
Clarinda was the home of Iowa's third insane asylum. It opened in 1888 and accepted only male patients because the female wing wasn't complete. This 500,000 square foot building has a gothic façade that retains the original architectural integrity. It is still in use as the Clarinda Treatment Center as a correctional campus and human services location. One ward contains a museum of the hospital's history and includes medical artifacts, tools, and furniture.
5. Cherokee Mental Health Institute, 1251 W Cedar Loop, Cherokee
When the state of Iowa needed a fourth asylum to relieve overcrowding in the other facilities, the town of Cherokee lobbied diligently for this building. The legislature granted their wish and the hospital opened in 1902. In the first two weeks it was open, over 500 patients arrived by train from Independence and Clarinda. At its peak, there were more than 1,000 patients living here. This was a working farm and residents helped to produce the food they needed. Chickens, horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, and a large garden produced everything the facility needed to sustain itself.
Have you toured any of Iowa’s historical asylums?