In 1885, crowding at the state mental institution at Weston became so great, that the need for a new facility was a top priority.
Two years later, a task force was able to pass legislation to build a second hospital, located in Spencer, Roane County, WV. The land was bought from William P. Goff for a sum of $9,200 and when built, the Kirkbride building measured in at 1/4 of a mile long. It was billed as the longest continuous brick structure in America, built from native stone.
The hospital opened for patients on July 18, 1893. Named the Second Hospital for the Insane, the doors opened to 54 patients...an number that would increase to 696 over the next ten years.
In the early 1920s, the name was changed to Spencer State Hospital. Several years later a 5 bed hospital clinic was added. The renovations didn't stop there, though. Starting in 1959, the roof was replaced, drastically altering the facade of the building. In 1972 Opportunity Hall, a section for teenagers, was added, followed the next year by a new administration and food service building.
1989 saw the closure of this massive monument, and in October of 1993 everything in the building was auctioned off, including patient x-rays. Before the building was torn down, strange events were often reported, including apparitions, moaning, chain rattling, etc. Rumor has it that doctors buried patients under the dirt floor and when you enter those rooms, you can feel people breathing on your neck.
Like many similar institutions, this one hosted Dr. James Freeman, who is known as the father of frontal lobotomies. It is said that on one visit, Dr. Freeman forgot or misplaced his hammer used in the procedure. A wooden mallet was found in the kitchen and used in its place. Between 1949 and 1952 Dr. Freeman performed lobotomies on over 200 patients, one dying when an out of place artery was severed.
The property does have several cemeteries, dating back to 1902. A total of 750 unmarked and 107 marked graves are memorialized by a white historical sign.
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