Osawatomie State Hospital

Administrative Building Osawatomie State HospitalThe first territorial legislature in 1855 passed an act providing for the appointment of guardians for persons of unsound mind, and in 1859 the provisions of the law were extended to include habitual drunkards. Guardians of such persons were required to assume the management of any estate owned by the ward, and to report to the proper judicial authorities at stated times.

The first step toward the erection of an asylum for the insane of Kansas was the passage of the act of March 2, 1863, naming William Chestnut of Miami county, I. Hiner of Anderson county, and James Hanway of Franklin county as commissioners "to determine the location of the State Insane Asylum of the State of Kansas." The commissioners were somewhat restricted in the selection of a site, the act confining them to "some point within the township of Osawatomie township, in the county of Miami."

It was further provided that a tract of land, not less than 160 acres, should constitute the site of the proposed institution, and that title to this land should be secured by donation. No appropriation was made for the erection of buildings until after the location was selected and approved.

On Oct. 17, 1863, the commissioners reported as follows: "We, the undersigned appointed commissioners to locate the state insane asylum, met at Osawatomie, Kan., on the 7th day of October, A. D., 1863, and selected the southeast quarter of section 2, township 18, range 22, for the reason that this was the only eligible site where a proper title could be obtained with the means at command of the township, and other material advantages for the establishment of such an institution."

The tract of land selected by the commissioners is situated about a mile north of the city of Osawatomie, on the opposite side of the Marais des Cygnes river. It was donated by the people of Osawatomie township and some years later an additional 160 acres were purchased by the state, giving the hospital a full half section of land.

The work of the commissioners was approved, and on Feb. 14, 1865, an act was passed providing for the appointment of three trustees by the governor, only one of whom could be a resident of Miami county. The first building was erected in 1860. It was a small two-story frame structure and cost about $500. Toward the latter part of the year the institution was opened for the reception of patients, with Dr. C. O. Gause as superintendent and Mrs. Gause as matron.

At last Kansas had an insane asylum. Two years later the two wards—one for men and the other for women—each accommodating 12 patients, were filled, and the state was compelled to erect additional buildings for the accommodation of more patients. From that time the growth of the institution has been steady, until in 1910 the property held by it was valued at $1,000,000.

The farm has been increased to 720 acres; the main building includes the administration offices, the chapel, which seats 600 people, dormitories for a large number of the employees, and quarters for about 450 patients; the Knapp and Adair buildings, similar in design and equipment, each accommodate 300 chronic cases, the former being set apart for men and the latter for women; and there are shops, boiler house, electric light, and power plant, ice house, bakery, laundry, barns, greenhouses, a reservoir for water supply, etc.

In 1901 a new infirmary was erected at a cost of $50,000, and since then the institution has been supplied with a tuberculosis pavilion. The original building of 1866 has been removed to the rear of the east wing of the main building, where it is used as a residence for the head farmer and is known as "The Lodge." There is also an amusement hall.

Transcribed from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history


The Old Main Building was built in 1869 at a cost of $20,000. It was built to replace all of the existing structures on the Osawatomie State Hospital grounds. It was built exactly to the specifications of the "Kirkbride Plan", having a central building and two wings, swept back in sections.

The central structure, which is the only part of the building remaining today, is five stories high. It has an auditorium with a stage in it to provide patients with their entertainment. It had a balcony looking down on the stage too. The central part of the building held the workers, nurses, and the superintendent. Its wings were east and west and they were tore down in 1971. The wings were 300 feet long each with them being swept back every 50 feet or so. The wings were two stories high and accommodated about 700 patients in each wing. It is one mammoth of a structure looking down over Marais des Cygnes River down on the small town of Osawatomie, Kansas it looks like a castle from the town.

The Old Main Building is the oldest Mental Health Building surviving west of the Mississippi River. In May of 2002, Kansas State Governor, Governor Bill Graves signed a bill that would start bids to demolish the building.