Eastern State Hospital

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City/Town: Vinita
Location Class: Hospital
Year Built: 1912 | Year Abandoned: 1990's
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: David LindeJohnny Fletcher

History:
“Eastern State Hospital has been a major factor in the economy of Craig County since 1913, and its influence in mental health matters has extended well beyond its service area. When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, the mentally ill first were cared for through contract with private sanitariums. In Indian Territory, Cherokee Nation had maintained an asylum at Park Hill.

Eastern Oklahoma Hospital for the Insane was established by the Oklahoma State Legislature in 1909, to be located at Vinita, Craig County; on a 160 acre tract of land given to the State by the City of Vinita for this purpose. The land on which the hospital was established originally was owned by S.S. Cobb.

An appropriation was made to erect buildings, which were completed late in 1912. Dr. F.M. Adams was appointed August 12, 1912, by Governor Lee Croce as the hospital superintendent. His original four-year appointment stretched into a lifetime job. Dr. Adams served until his death in December 1955.

The first patients were received on January 28, 1913, when 300 people were transferred by special train from the Oklahoma Sanatorium at Norman. The special train was unloaded at a siding designated “Asylum Spur,” a little more than a mile south of the hospital. Wagons were sent to carry the women and a few older men, and the others walked to the new hospital.

During 1914 Building No. 3 was completed, and immediately 300 more patients were moved here from Norman. By 1954, the institution had a capacity of 2,600 patients and a capital investment of $6,541,050.

The hospital opened with two doctors, Dr. Adams and Dr. Edwin Williams, a physician from Philadelphia who had some experience with the mentally ill. He returned to the east about two years later, and Dr. P.I. Hays became assistant superintendent. Dr. Hays remained on the staff, succeeding Dr. Adams as superintendent and serving until October 1961. Both doctors were widely recognized for pioneering efforts in treatment of the mentally ill. The gradual expansion over the years, to the peak population of the mid-1950’s, saw buildings steadily added, and more land acquired.

Facilities which were added included hospital wards for male and female patient, 1916; administration building, 1922; barn, implement sheds, greenhouse, new power house equipment in 1924; a fire station and sewage plant, 19,30; a canning plant in 1938; central dining room, kitchen, a maximum restraint building for men, 1939; administration building, 1949; an employees’ dormitory in 1953, named Adams Hall in honor of the long-time superintendent.

After Adams Hall was completed, a two-story house known as the “Farm House” was torn down. The house had been the home of Mr. and Mrs. S. S. Cobb before the hospital was established. For many years, most of the hospital employees were required to live on the grounds. Meals were provided as part of the salary. Some roomed in basements of ward buildings and others lived in two old barracks buildings, according to long-time employees. These buildings were moved in after World War Two.

During the years of peak patient population, the farm was an important economic factor. Swine, poultry, and dairy operations provided meat and milk, while garden produce was used fresh and also was canned for later use. Many farm-oriented patients worked alongside employees, and this provided valuable therapy.

The hospital’s Holstein dairy herd was considered one of the best in the state, with some of the cattle setting production records and winning prizes at state fairs. The dairy was closed in 1968. Other farming operations were gradually phased out in the early 1970’s. Through the first 40 years of the hospital’s history, much of the patient care was custodial in nature. Staff was limited, but treatments, which were innovative at the time, were introduced.

Dr. Hays pioneered in many types of treatment, including luminal, sodium amy-tal, and various types of shock treatment. He was among the first to use malaria in treatment of syphilis. He was the first in the nation to use atropine sulphate as a treatment for Parkinsonian syndrome. In 1956, the ESH staff under Dr. Hays’ direction took part in a research program to test the tranquilizing drugs Thorazine and serpasil.

Dr. Adams became recognized as one of the nation’s foremost hospital administrators. Even with limited funds and staff, he pioneered in new types of treatment and psychotherapy. For his service in the field of mental illness, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in November 1954.

In 1947, the Hospital was renamed Eastern State. From that time forward, the state saw increased awareness of the needs of the mentally ill and increased funding which made possible more intensive, specialized treatment.

The dining room burned in 1951; a new central kitchen with men and women’s dining rooms was built about five years later. Dr. W.C. Reed, Vinita dentist who had served the hospital part-time for 20 years, closed his private practice and became full-time dentist at ESH.

In 1951, Sam Seabolt became director of the Recreation Department. He remained on the staff 33 years, serving as Director of Activity Services, comprising occupational, recreational, music, work therapies, and volunteer services. Until 1983 he also supervised the chaplain and adult education services. A new medical service building was opened in 1952; in 1960 the building was named Hays Treatment Center in honor of Dr. P.L. Hays.

During the 1950’s, the Rev. Moody Nicholson, who had been pastor of Vinita’s Pilgrim Presbyterian Church, became full-time chaplain at the hospital. Later, an All Faiths Chapel was provided. Dr. A.D. Barrett is head chaplain.

In 1956 the first Department of Nursing was established, with Dorothy Hall, RN, a professional nurse administrator, as director.

When she took the post, ESH had six professional nurses and nearly 400 non-professional workers in psychiatric nursing, responsible for 72 ward units. By contrast, at the end of February 1984, the nursing department had 460 employees of whom 64 were Registered Nurses and 58 Licensed Practical Nurses. In 1984 the hospital was operating 18 ward units with a daily census of less than 400. Although more than 3,500 admissions were recorded in 1983, average length of stay was 39.6 days.

Volunteers have played a vital role in the hospital. Red Cross volunteers from Miami, Vinita, Claremore, Nowata devoted much time to work with patients. The Bartlesville Gray Ladies, who began weekly trips to ESH in 1955 and Gray Men, continue to serve, as have some Vinitans.

After the resignation of Dr. Hays, Dr. Wayne J. Boyd was superintendent until 1963. He was succeeded by Dr. Ruth V. Annadown, 1963-64. Dr. B.F. Peterson then came from Tennessee in July 1964 and headed the hospital until his death in 1972. Dr. A. Lawrence White served 1972-73; Dr. D.W. Shupe 1973-74; Dr. Joe Tyler 1974-78. Dr. Robert O’Toole became superintendent from October 1979 until February 1983, then Dr. Mason W. Robison assumed administrative duties.

In 1964, state mental hospitals were desegregated and patients at Taft were moved to the state hospitals in Vinita and Norman. In 1971 the first floor of Adams Hall was remodeled for administrative offices.

A dining room was located in the east wing of the Food Services Building. The changes in Food Service were especially evident. Dr. Peterson had believed that food was a factor in therapy. When men and women started having meals together, a noticeable improvement in personal appearance took place.

Outpatient services were begun in the 1960’s to provide aftercare for discharged patients.

As the patient population declined, patients needing surgery have been transported elsewhere for care. The Medical Services do include a medical clinic, laboratory, X-ray, dental clinic, and pharmacy. During Dr. O’Toole’s administration, ESH was designated as the treatment center for all inmates of the Department of Corrections requiring mental health services, and the hospital also handles all Oklahoma court-ordered observation-evaluation. Building 12 was completely renovated as a maximum security facility in 1983.

In 2006 a new facility was opened to replace the original buildings.”                                                      -Ref. asylumprojects.org

Since 2003, Oklahoma Department of Corrections facility has occupied part of state hospital’s land.




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Jennifer Blevins
Jennifer Blevins
7 years ago

ESH provided my family a living for 30 years. My dad was a psychiatrist there from 1963-1980 when he retired. Dad had real compassion for his patients and worked very hard at trying to get them well with medication and therapy. These were the stories I heard at the dinner table growing up. I also worked at ESH in the Finance Office from 1978-1992. There are a lot of mentally ill people in this world, many who do not have resources to effectively treat their disorder. ESH was their port in the storm. I agree with you that emptying the… Read more »

Angelia Boshuizen
Angelia Boshuizen
10 years ago

My mother, Carolyn Wirth, was court ordered for a 30-day stay at Eastern State Hospital in August 1986 after being diagnosed as Manic Depressive. Visiting her on a regular basis in an effort to get her discharged was an experience I'll never forget. The images are as clear today as they were when I first set foot on the facility's grounds. Looking at the photos on this website is a clear indication of the dismay that took place on a daily basis dispite the faculty's efforts to provide care for the patients. Although I am thankful there was such a… Read more »

Melissa
Melissa
Reply to  Angelia Boshuizen
9 years ago

My dad was there, and that's where he died 23 years ago. I never got to know him because I was only 2 years old. The hospital did not keep a good eye on him.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
Reply to  Melissa
9 years ago

Did they bury people on site at Eastern State? Is there a cemetary? I saw a video about a hospital in Danvers where ex patients restored the cemetary at Danvers State Hospital. Its a pretty cool story. http://asylumprojects.org/index.php?title=Main_Pa

Paul
Paul
Reply to  Elizabeth
6 years ago

Yes there is a cemetery down the road to the East. There are only a few tombstones and the rest are only generic markers to the unclaimed. You cannot enter the cemetery.

Nick Seabolt
Nick Seabolt
Reply to  Paul
7 months ago

The tomb stones have been moved I buried several people they are not always the right name above the grave

Tiff
Tiff
Reply to  Elizabeth
7 months ago

They have a cemetery on the property

Dawn
Dawn
Reply to  Elizabeth
2 months ago

There is a cemetery on site. However, there was extensive damage and vandalism in 2000.

Michelle Blackwell
Michelle Blackwell
8 months ago

My Mom worked there for 26yrs. I worked in them buildings from 1996 untill we moved to the new one in 2008. I am still there today. I loved working in the old buildings. My Mom would tell me storys when I was growing up. I would go on picnics with them when I was a kid. I love working with the clients.

Adam
Adam
10 years ago

Does anyone know of any of the information pertaining to supposed paranormal activity or apparitions at old state?

E. J.
E. J.
Reply to  Adam
9 years ago

I worked there for 9 years and know where you will find activity because we heard it all the time. Go to #9 building on 2nd floor hospital #2. We would hear footsteps and beds being moved. Next place is the PAC that's where everyone went it had the canteen gym and everyone went to congregate. If you need any more info I would be happy to tell you. while I was there we had many deaths and suicides. You can reach me @ madjack710@ yahoo.com

Melissa
Melissa
Reply to  E. J.
9 years ago

E.J.,
Do you happen to know about how I can obtain medical records from there? My father died there. He committed suicide in 1988, and I want to know what happened. It's been 23 years now, and I have no idea on how to go about getting the answers since the place is now abandoned. 🙁

Nick Seabolt
Nick Seabolt
Reply to  Melissa
7 months ago

They have medical records they were in admin building on the 2nd floor they were still there when I retired 10 years ago and I bet there still there 1000s of them

Krystal Briley
Krystal Briley
Reply to  Nick Seabolt
7 months ago

I would like to know more about this place im just completely in love with this place even though it is abandoned my emai is brileykrystal5@gmail.com

Bonnie
Bonnie
Reply to  Nick Seabolt
6 months ago

My 2nd great grandmother was comited there on October 24th,1947 by her son Robert. How would I get further information on Mary Johnson from that time frame. I read online the hospital was abandoned in 1990. Any information would help.

Dawn
Dawn
Reply to  Nick Seabolt
2 months ago

I would LOVE to get my eyes on medical records! My great grandfather was there from 1935-1944 and died there. Any info…dhbock1@att.net.

Alexander Powell Hay
Alexander Powell Hay
10 years ago

I am P.L. Hays' great grandson and namesake. I am very pleased to have found this site with the detailed history and information regarding "DOC". There is an interesting story regarding a patient escape and P.L. being shot with a .22 in the chest during the chase. Nobody knows how the patient obtained the pistol but he did.

shawn harlan
shawn harlan
Reply to  Alexander Powell Hay
10 years ago

wow, I would like to hear more about this history, do you know anymore about it?

Witness
Witness
Reply to  Alexander Powell Hay
6 years ago

I remember the incident well however do to protect the families privacy that's all I can tell you

LaVonda Sexton
LaVonda Sexton
7 months ago

My mom worked there for years.

Dominique Coleman
Dominique Coleman
10 months ago

It’s a very cool place, but I really don’t recommend going. A few of my buddies and I went, and the Police rolled up in under 5 minutes. If you try to hide (we didn’t), they’ll bring a dog out. All in all, a very neat place, but it wasn’t worth getting a ticket

Dale Herman
Dale Herman
1 year ago

Thank you AOK for everything that you do. I was working there in the 90’s. In 2000 there was a reduction in force but the hospital remained open. It eventually was re-named Oklahoma Forensic Center and later moved to a new facility that was built North of the old grounds on 4420 road. The facility is still in operation to this day.

OriginalCeiling
Reply to  Dale Herman
1 year ago

Thank you Dale for your kind words, thanks for sharing your info!

Vinita Resident
Vinita Resident
3 years ago

I've always thought someone should make a movie at Eastern State Hospital. There is so much history there with as long as it was open and with the mentally insane. Also, the poor souls that were probably sent there when they weren't insane at all, but had an illness that doctors in that day and age were not aware of.

Fred
Fred
6 years ago

I've read all the comments but didn't find anyone answering the question: "Where are the records for the Vinita Eastern State Hospital? " and are they accessible today for someone doing genealogy research or trying to find health problems in their family. Please answer to the page and also cc me at: Fred@dittmar.net Thank you.

Sheri
Sheri
Reply to  Fred
1 year ago

I would also like to know if the old records are available. My grandmother was there in the 60s.

Hollie
Hollie
Reply to  Fred
6 months ago

Did you have any luck? I am desperately searching for answers on my Great Grandmother’s mental health also. She was there and died there.

kjf61
kjf61
7 years ago

First of all, God bless all of us who visit this site. It makes my heart so heavy… I visited my brother there in the 90's and it seemed to be a good place. (He even met his wife there) Oh no that couldn't be the end of it. My genealogy research has brought me back to this institution not once, twice but THREE times. Like I said, God bless us all and not let us take our lives for granted.

ShadyJ`
ShadyJ`
Reply to  kjf61
6 years ago

My brother was also there in the 90's and I also thought it appeared to be a nicely run place. I wish there was a compromise between the rights of the patient and the administering of obviously needed treatment.
I haven't seen my brother in almost 4 years due to his violent outbursts when off of his medications and I will not be around him due to safety concerns.

Patricia Salkeld
Patricia Salkeld
7 years ago

I am excited also to find this site. For me it is sad because of the loss of treatment for many who now roam the street with no home and no 'family' to care. I am the granddaughter of Dr. Felix Adams and I know your great grand parents well. They were our closest neighbors along Dr. Row. I spent summers with my grandparents beginning when I was 7 or 8 until 13 when my Dado passed. My cousin Sally and my brother Joe were also there and we had a grand time roaming all over the beautiful grounds. I… Read more »

Crissy Walton
Crissy Walton
9 years ago

It wasn't abandoned in the 1990's… We moved here in 2003 and helped deliver papers to Adam's Hall, Some to the kitchen, (weren't allowed in the ward's) juvenile hall and the DOC section…

macfurdith
macfurdith
10 years ago

Went to ESH once to twice a week to pick up or drop off Emergency Order of Detention patients. If picking up I would stop at the Admin building, pick up property, then usually go to #8 or #9 building. #12 building was for the criminally insane, which I believe is now where DOC operates at the site. Brings back memories. Bad memories… I hated that part of my job. 🙂

AsylumBunny
AsylumBunny
Reply to  macfurdith
9 years ago

Hi. 🙂 If you're not open to what I'm about to ask, I totally understand… But would you ever want to take part in an interview about your ESH experiences? If so, please contact me at asylum_bunny@yahoo.com

nikki
nikki
10 years ago

Are there any places like this in OK that can be visited? Abondonded ones? camey1201@yahoo.com is my email address

Melba
Melba
8 days ago

My great grandfather was in the hospital and we are trying to find what happened to him. Do you know where we can get records? Thanks

Amanda
Amanda
30 days ago

My grandmother worked here. I’m not sure of the dates. How can I go about find this out. Any information or help please email me at snoangel26@gmail.com I’m trying to learn more of my paternal side of my family. Thank you

Bobby Snowden
Bobby Snowden
2 months ago

I was at the hospital in the 92 at a work center and we were in the population.iworked for maint in the max unit it was unbelievable

tammy
tammy
2 months ago

does anyone know how to go about getting records from the hospital? my great grandfather was a patient here until his death. i know he became a patient before 1930.

Bill Maguire
Bill Maguire
3 months ago

My wife’s great grandmother was there from at least 1920 till 1940, according to census records. Would love to find out why

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