ATHENS — The Athens County Historical Society and Museum will present a Walking Tour of the Historic Athens Asylum on Sunday, Jan. 17 from 2 to 4 p.m.
George Eberts, longtime Asylum employee and local expert on the Athens Asylum, will be leading an outdoor walking tour of the historic Athens Asylum grounds and buildings. His insights on patient treatment throughout the asylum’s 140-year existence are peppered with stories, personal anecdotes and hidden locations throughout the grounds.
Large asylums designed by Thomas Story Kirkbride were built after the Civil War due to the number of veterans suffering from is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder. His designs are reflective of the idea at the time that it was therapeutic for patients to be housed in a facility that resembled a home.
The tour teaches the history of the Kirkbride and other old buildings, landscaped grounds, historic cemeteries and the evolution of mental health treatment from the hospitals opening in 1874 until its closing in 1993.
The facility began operation as the Athens Hospital for the Insane and was renamed several times throughout its history. The names included Athens Lunatic Asylum, Athens Asylum for the Insane, the Athens State Hospital, the Southeastern Ohio Mental Health Center, the Athens Mental Health Center, the Athens Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center, the Athens Mental Health and Developmental Center and then again the Athens Mental Health Center.
The hospital initially provided services to a variety of patients that included Civil War veterans, children and violent criminals suffering from various mental disabilities. The history of the hospital includes some of the now-discredited theories of the causes and treatments of mental illness.
Common ailments such as epilepsy, menopause, alcohol addiction and tuberculosis were cause for enrollment in the hospital. The site is perhaps best known as a site of the lobotomy procedure.
Tickets and spaces are limited. For more information or to reserve a space on the tour, contact the Athens County Historical Society and Museum at 740-592-2280. Be sure to dress appropriately for the weather. The tour will meet in front of Lin Hall (the Kennedy Museum of Art).
Contact Lorna Hart at 740-992-2155.