On March 12, 2010, I visited Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, GA to revisit and confront memories of long ago.
For me, the visit was about returning to a place and time in my life that was filled with memories of shame and sorrow,
family secrets and hushed conversations about electroshock therapy, straight jackets, padded rooms, and nerve
medication. I can now recall those memories with a new understanding. My mother was only at CSH for a few
months, and was functional most of her life following her release, largely because of the care she received at CSH.
She was ill and was treated as a person with an illness. There was no reason for shame or secrets. Descriptions and
stories from my mother's time at CSH are found in the upcoming biography about my brother Closing The Gate.
For much of its lifetime, CSH was the largest mental health facility in the world, and is still today the largest in the
USA. The facility sits on 4,000 acres and includes more than 100 buildings, many of which are now unusable and
abandoned. Although the museum and CSH records contain many documents of historical significance, I was
surprised to learn that little has been done by the state of Georgia or psychiatric or historical agencies to review and
archive this vital part of America's and Georgia's past.
In planning my visit, I searched for books about the history of this facility, and the history of mental illness and it's
care. In my quest, i discovered, But For The Grace of God (ISBN: 978-0557026821) written by former CSH
Superintendent, Dr. Peter G Cranford, which contains the history of this institution and its patent populations,
references to the patient types, their diagnoses and care. Considering the importance of this site, I expected to find
many volumes of reference and background material, but found very little.
Many of the CSH employees of today are descendants of former employees. Some were born in the CSH hospital (now
More than 30, 000 former patients are buried on CSH grounds, and during the 1960's-1970's, the CSH population
numbered 12,000-13,000 patients.
Many of the descendants of these former patients, are, like myself, seeking information and finding little.
While the CSH website provides some references and pictures of the facility, the local community websites, historical
organizations, and tourism agencies have no information about the hospital or its role in this small community, even
though it is (and has been since it was established) the top employer for the area. For many of the families of the
former patients, this makes finding information about the hospital, its history and its patient more difficult than it
needs to be.
CSH is a beautiful campus, with impressive buildings and open spaces. The buildings need to be preserved, and their
past use needs to be revered and rejoiced rather than ignored. In my opinion, Milledgeville needs to embrace this
institution and champion its value as an historical site.
The pictures on this website were taken during my visit, with permission from CSH.
Copyright 2009, 2010, 2011
All Rights Reserved
|Central State Hospital, Milledgeville GA
as discussed in Closing The Gate
|The Yarborough Building was used to house
female patients in the 1960's and 1970's when the
CSH population was 12, 000 to 13, 000.
My mother was housed in this building
during her stay at CSH.
|The site of the original hospital building. It is
to be closed and sold this year, even though
it is on the National Registry of Historical Places
|No longer safe. It housed white male patients during
the time of segregation. Paranormal events are
often reported in relation to this building.
|One of the "H" style buildings on campus.
Beautiful architecture, somewhat Gothic.
|This is a portion of the original building erected to house female white patients in 1883. Like the Walker building, this
beautiful structure was allowed to fall into ruin. Today, only the front portion has been salvaged, and sits on Jones
Street near the auditorium. A close-up of the building cornerstone is on the right.
Read more about Central State
Hospital in the Silver Medal
Award Winning biography
Closing The Gate