Sunday, May 22, 2011

Utah State Hospital

    For the summer I am down in Southern Utah.  Before leaving Provo I took several photos around town so that I can keep up with the blog during the summer.  I plan to focus on Provo for most of the summer, with an occasionally cool place from Southern Utah.
     I first wanted to highlight the Utah State Hospital.  I was amazed at the beautiful architecture that I was finding while researching historic photos of Provo.  Most of the really cool architecture came from the Utah State Hospital (also known as the Utah State Mental Hospital).  Here is the history of the building from the Utah State Hospital website:
     "The Utah State Hospital began as the Territorial Insane Asylum in 1885 at Provo, Utah (which at the time was a days' travel from Salt Lake City). The particular site in Provo was some eight blocks from the nearest residence and was separated from the city by swampland and the city dump. The message this reveals about the prevailing attitudes regarding mental illness is unmistakable.
     "The intervening years, however, have brought many changes: the swamp has been drained, the dump converted into a municipal park, and the city has expanded to the point that there is no longer a stark demarcation of where the "Asylum" begins.
     "From its origin the purpose of the Hospital was to treat the mentally ill and to return them to a normal level of functioning. In spite of their best efforts, however, in its early days the facility was little more than a human warehouse. In fact, by 1955 the population at the hospital was over 1,500 patients.
     "Over the years, tremendous advances in psychiatric medicine have changed the role of the Hospital to one of very active (and successful) treatment and rehabilitation. Today, it is truly a Hospital in every sense of the word.
     "Furthermore, the Hospital is no longer the primary deliverer of mental health services in Utah; this role changed with the creation in l969, of community mental health centers. Now residents throughout Utah can receive mental health services in their own community. The Hospital has changed its role from the only mental health treatment facility into a supporting role for the community mental health centers.
     "Today the Hospital provides 324 beds for Utah's mentally ill citizens who require treatment in a more structured setting. Treatment is provided to patients ranging from age six years to geriatric age. Specialized programs are offered for children, adolescents, forensic and adult residents.
     In addition to the changes in how mental health is approached, there have been dramatic changes to the actual building structures.  If you have been to the hospital anytime recently you would see ugly, bland buildings.  However, the hospital used to look incredible.  I didn't retake any of these photos since it costs $20 to take any photographs on the property.  Rather I just wanted to share a little information about this great historic site.  All of the photos are the information following (which most are quotes) are taken from the Provo Library's historical photo collection.

     This is the original main building.  In the following photograph, you can see the road leading up the the building, which is currently Center Street

    The Milton Hardy Building.  It was constructed in 1908 and was named after Dr. Milton Hardy, who was the Hospital Superintendent at the time of construction.  The building was built to provide housing for women but also provide space for those diagnosed as "feebleminded".  The building was determined to be unsafe and was demolished in 1967.

     This is the dairy building which was located on the campus

     The George Hyde Building.  This building was constructed in 1921 and was named after George Hyde, who was the hospital superintendent at the time of construction.  The building housed a variety of patients until 2004 when it was determined unsafe and demolished.

     The Infirmary Building

     The Shop Building.  The first floor was built to provide various workshops for patients to produce items for use at the hospital.  The basement was used for storage.  Before the completion, a second floor was added to provide living space for male patients at the hospital who were diagnosed as "feebleminded".  The building was demolished in 2006. 

     This is a picture of the stage of what is known as the castle on the Mental Hospital grounds.  It is a beautiful building surrounded by a nice park, pond, and mini golf course.  I have always been interested and intrigued by this building.  While researching for this post, I found out that this was built during the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration (which was intended to get people back to work).  They built it as a source recreation and entertainment for patients at the hospital.  It is included on the National Register of Historic Places.  The castle is also featured in the next couple of photos.

    I have never been able to find a historic map of the State Hospital so if anyone knows where to find one, let me know.  Because of that, I don't know where exactly on campus any of these buildings were located, with the exception of the main administration building and the castle.
     I wanted to add a couple of extra tidbits about the hospital.  I was told in my Abnormal Psychology class that they used to have haunted houses during Halloween on the hospital grounds.  Patients at the hospital would dress up and participate in the haunted house while people from the community walked through it (yes, I know, it sounds crazy and unethical).  Apparently it was a big hit among community members until someone one year was stabbed by a patient from the hospital.  Since then it has not been continued.
     Also, in regards to the weird, abandoned lodge behind Seven Peaks (on 300 North) that everyone claims is part of the old Mental Hospital.  I don't believe that it is or was ever part of the State Hospital (if anyone can support or deny this, I'd love more information since I have only one source).  First of all, its design and the lack of a fence around the property makes me think that it was never intended for mental patients.  Also, I heard that originally Seven Peaks was supposed to be a ski resort.  The idea was to build a lift up over Y Mountain and have people ski on the back side.  This makes a lot more sense to me since the building looks like a ski lodge.  I was told that funds ran out and rather than a ski lodge a water park was created.  Also I was told that some of the wood that was going to be used for the ski lift can be found around Provo (it was sold to individual families).  The person who told me this information told me that the they have lots of the wood and used part of it for a retaining wall.


  1. Hey Chad -

    Great blog. Wondering if you could help me find some pictures. I own the house at 468 North 100 East and am trying to restore the outside. While it has been changed into a 4 plex, I have found that giving hints of its past is attractive to folks. Wondering if you might have run across photos of the Provo Library looking south or there abouts that might give me a hint about the house. Thanks!

    -Lee (lgientke AT

  2. As an employee at the USH let me point out as far as I'm aware there were never any serious injuries at the Haunted Castle and certainly never any injuries intentionally caused by a patient. The Haunted Castle was shut down due to objections by NAMI brought before the Utah State Legislature. Check out:

    Whoever told you there was a stabbing there was misinformed. They did often post a couple of security officers at the end of the haunted castle making claims of looking for an escaped patient, a murderer on the loose, a guy with a hook for a hand, or other outrageous stories to keep the "fear factor" of the spook alley going. Which might be where this bit of misinformation came from.

    The haunted castle was one of the most successful therapeutic programs that the State Hospital ever ran. I know it may seem "crazy and unethical", but it allowed patients to interact with the public without feeling like they were under the microscope due to their mental illnesses.

    As for the "lodge" building on Seven Peaks property. If I remember correctly, it was built as an office building for the management of both the water park and what I believe is now the marriot hotel downtown. The hotel used to be under other ownership and the two locations were managed as one company.

  3. Chad,

    Agreed with the "unknown" USH employee.. There were never any major injuries of any kind from patient to patron. The worst injury I seen was due to someone either falling or tripping down the stairs and scuffing a knee or two because of being startled. I currently live in Phoenix, Arizona but grew up in Provo until I was about 14 or 15. I would attend the spook alley every year, at least once or twice a year if not more when I could. My mother was an employee at Utah State Hospital for over 25 years and I volunteered to work in the spook alley 2 season's in a row before we moved to AZ. I was unaware that they had closed down the castle in 2007 and would have loved to have been there for the last run that year. I have a lot of great memories from the hospital.

    I also heard about the rumors about the ski lodge being built before we moved away. I've also heard the stories of the tram system that was to be built as well. That would have been a great revenue generator for the Provo area for the winter time.

  4. I have worked at the hospital now for six years, and if I'm correct about which building you're talking about, it's my understanding that the building was used as a barn for USH many years ago. It was going to be used by Seven Peaks, but the deal fell through for monetary reasons, so it has remained vacant. I believe Provo City is the owner of both Seven Peaks Water Park, and the building in question.

    As far as the spook alley goes, I used to go every year, and it was one of the best I've ever been to, and all I've ever heard from staff and patients alike, was that the patients involved looked forward to participating in the spook alley all year long. They were crushed when they shut it down.

    As far as the stabbing, there was a woman stabbed and killed in one of the cafeterias by a patient in around 1991, but it had nothing to do with the Haunted Castle.

  5. I am associated people who have previously been residents of the state hospital & who are now served in the community setting. I know former residents who are still afraid of Halloween & have told me that during the haunted house the staff pitted the criminally insane against those who were not criminals but suffered mental illness. They have no happy memories of the haunted house and still suffer from nightmares of the place. I think NAMI was correct to shut the silly attraction down. What a stupid idea! I lived in SLC as a teen and remember the hoopla surrounding the haunted house. I never went. I am sorry to hear of those patients that were hurt during the haunted house, the cruel staff at the State Hospital and the lingering effects decades later. That's horror! Thank heavens we are in more enlightened times concerning our treatment of the mentally ill in Utah.

  6. Just to add a second witness and verify what was said by The Quiet One: The stabbing occurred in the canteen at the administration building.
    Not to counter what Janeen said, but I work at the hospital. All the patients I've met who remember the haunted house days enjoyed it. But it was probably still a good thing they shut the spook alley down.

  7. I use to be in the children's ward in my younger years and they showed us a video of the hospital in the old days and what had occurred there the injuries and deaths were primarily at the adult ward at least that's what the video said

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  9. There is a museum at the hospital that can answer a !ot of your questions. My husband worked at the hospital for 30 years. We as well as our children volunteered at the haunted castle for years.I was more afraid of the people going through the spook alley not the patients. Forensic patients wouldn't have been allowed to work at the castle.The stabbing did occur in the canteen(dining hall) my husband witnessed that event. The ski lodge that never came to fruition was the original hospital milk barn. The hospital was almost self sufficient in its early days.

  10. Is the Castle just above the ampitheater? I really want to see it. I was there with my family today for family pictures but I didn't see a Castle.

  11. Would love to metal detect that location...there are bound to be a lot of cool things on USH property due to the age.