Dakota Datebook

State Hospital Opens

Saturday, May 1, 2004

On this day in 1885, the North Dakota Hospital For The Insane At Jamestown” was opened. Its corporate seal featured the three figures of Faith, Hope, and Charity, with the caption: “But The Greatest Of These Is Charity.”

This hospital was a model institution for the times. One reporter wrote, “I have visited many ‘insane asylums’ (back east)… but nothing like (this),” he said. “…pleasant surprises never ceased, from the discovery that there was not a single horrifying prison-like grated door or bar or heavy bolt, down to the systematic manner in which… patients were engaged in doing light housework!”

The building was very soon overcrowded. A plea for more staff and housing fell on deaf ears, and within several years, the prison-like conditions of the eastern asylums started to develop. Patients slept two-to-a-bed, many stuffed in the attic until 18 years later, when two new buildings were finally added. Unfortunately, things would get much worse before they got better… but that’s a story for another day.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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