This Day in History — May 1

On May 1, 1824, the Eastern Lunatic Asylum, now Eastern State Hospital, opened for the reception of patients. The asylum was the second institution of its kind in the nation and was established Dec. 7th, 1822 by an act passed by the Kentucky Legislature and signed into law by Governor Adair. Both parties saw a need for a change in treatment of mentally ill poor persons, though motivations were for custody rather than cure. The law was very specific in the needs which this institution must meet, quote

“The consideration of public safety, the well being of society and long experience enforced by the example of other countries, conspire to prove the necessity of providing by law for the care, comfort and safe keeping of persons, mentally diseased and who are of unsound minds. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” that a Lunatic Asylum shall be, and is hereby established in this state, which shall be seated in the county of Fayette, near the town of Lexington, a suitable tract or lot of ground including a spring of never failing water, of not less than ten nor more than twenty acres, for the public purpose aforesaid. The said commissioners shall proceed immediately after the passage of this act, to make such purchase, upon the best terms practicable, and proceed to erect or cause to be erected, suitable and convenient buildings, of stone or brick or both, sufficient for the care and safekeeping of at least two-hundred persons, having a due regard to their comfort as well as safe keeping.”

The Eastern State Hospital Cemetery, located on the hospital grounds, was use from the first quarter of the 19th century until the early 1950s, is no longer intact. Local industrial development resulted in a relocation of many cemetery graves to a small common area of land near the hospital grounds. It is unknown how many individuals are buried in the cemetery, but is believed to consist of 10,000 or more. These persons came from all over the state of Kentucky, as well as from other states.

Over the years, the name changed several times, until 1912 when the General Assembly officially renamed it Eastern State Hospital.

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