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Southwestern Lunatic Asylum of Virginia (1887-1935)


Historical Note

The first two patients were admitted to what was then called "Southwestern Lunatic Asylum" on May 17, 1887. By 1906, there were 507 patients treated at an annual operating cost of $71,693.96. Several improvements were made to the facility to alleviate over crowding: In 1908, a tubercular building was erected and housed 50 patients. In 1930, a 100-bed building was erected (known as the Harmon Building). In 1935, a building for the criminally insane was added with an average annual population of 138 inmates. Additionally, twelve hundred acres were rented out for farming. By 1935, the facility became known as "Southwestern State Hospital." The average patient population had also grown to 1,339. By 1964, there were 1,493 patients -- staff numbered just 513. As deinstitutionalization took place, the patient population decreased to 1,266 in 1972 and by 1981, there were just 500 patients. In 1986, demolition commenced on the original Henderson Complex and construction of Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institute (SWVMHI) began.


Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Black, Kent, and Apperson Family Papers

Identifier: Ms-1974-003

This collection contains the papers and artifacts of an interrelated family prominent in Blacksburg's history. It includes the Civil War letters of Confederate surgeon Dr. Harvey Black, the Civil War diary of hospital steward John S. Apperson, cotton books and correspondence of Germanicus Kent, nineteenth-century account books of a Blacksburg general store, 1912 European travel diary, and the political scrapbooks of State Senator and Attorney General Harvey B. Apperson.

Dates: 1779 - 1984