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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • The history of Farview State Hospital

  • In 1817 a group of Quakers founded America's first private mental hospital, Frankford Retreat, outside Philadelphia but Pennsylvania did not have any governmental provision for the treatment of the mentally ill.
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  • In 1817 a group of Quakers founded America's first private mental hospital, Frankford Retreat, outside Philadelphia but Pennsylvania did not have any governmental provision for the treatment of the mentally ill.
    At that time, there was limited understanding of mental illness. So, for the most part those of unsound mind were simply restrained by their own families or temporarily locked up in the county jail.
    By the 1840s, Dorothea Dix (1802-1887), a teacher and writer from Boston, Mass., led the movement to improve the treatment of the mentally ill. She crusaded tirelessly for state governments to address the problem.
    Miss Dix finally persuaded the Pennsylvania State Legislature to establish a public institution for the state's mentally ill and the State Lunatic Hospital and Union Asylum for the Insane opened in Harrisburg in 1851.
    Although the inmates received better treatment there still was not enough known to treat their illnesses. The reformers who fought for the improvement of their living conditions optimisticaly felt the patients could be taught or trained to be normal. Their approach to the therapy was fresh food, clean country air, space for exercise and basic education in vocational skills.
    This early optimism gradually faded due to lack of progress and the number of patients requiring institutionalization increased. This led to the feeling that in most cases the mentally ill would require lifelong institutionalization and after the Civil War three more state mental hospitals were built, Danville in 1868; Warren in 1873 and Norristown in 1875.
    To handle the administration of these facilities the state created the Board of Public Charities in 1869. In 1883, the Board of Public Charities established the Committee on Lunacy to inspect mental health facilities throughout the state.
    The reports showed that, in addition to being overcrowded, the facilities offered little more than custodial care so a decision was made to separate those with different types of problems to try to focus the care based on the different needs of the patients. Between 1890 and 1915 the Polk Sate School for the Mentally Retarded was created in 1893; Farview State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in 1905; and the Pennsylvania Village for feebleminded Women of Child-bearing Age in 1914.
    Farview was founded by an act of the state legislature on May 11, 1905 as the first and only institution in the state devoted exclusively to the care and treatment of the criminally insane.
    It was located on a 950 acre tract of land just west of Waymart on land donated to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by the Delaware & Hudson Railroad.
    Page 2 of 3 - Over the years additional land was purchased adding another 450 acres to the property. The site had been the Farview Picnic Ground used by the D&H Gravity Railroad excursion rides. The location is one of the highest elevations in the state and the name is derived from the spectacular view from that spot.
    Dr. Thomas C. Fitzsimmons was appointed the first superintendent of the hospital and construction continued between 1908 and 1913 with the first patients arriving in December 1912.
    In 1913 the number of patients was 171 and by 1960 it had risen to 1,401. Farview was intended to function as a prison without walls. The design grouped the large brick buildings together with connecting passageways that enclosed a courtyard. This restricted the patients' access only to the courtyards and the interior of the buildings. J.C. M. Shirk of Philadelphia designed and constructed the original buildings and his partner, Charles L. Hillman, designed and built the later buildings after Shirk's death in 1918.
    The complex included the main hospital, dormitory, and a dining hall for the patients plus an industrial building where they manufactured various items.
    It also included the administrative building, superintendent's residence, a guard dormitory, staff cottages, kitchens, workshop, laundry and 43 acre farm.
    Farview was representative of a development in the treatment of the criminally insane known as institutional peonage. This was the practice of having patients provide labor to help offset costs for the facility while giving the patients manual work that would instill a feeling of self-worth and employ their time productively.
    By 1914, an additional 100 acres had been cleared for crops which included potatoes, cabbage, turnips, tomatoes, beans, carrots and parsnips. In the first year of operation the farm had a bull, 20 cows, 10 calves, 50 pigs and 100 chickens.
    By 1920 the farm comprised 307 acres and beef cattle, sheep and a small herd of deer for venison were added to the livestock. The property also included orchards, vineyards and a berry patch.
    An occupational therapy program was established in 1920, which included various types of industrial arts such as brick making, weaving, knitting, printing, laundering and baking. The facility also provided various amusements for the patients such as baseball, movies, pool and checkers. The hospital even had a band.
    Many changes took place over the years. A dairy barn was erected about 1920 and additional structures were added as the need arose. The dairy barn was destroyed in a fire set by one of the patients but a more up-to-date barn was built to replace it with every bit of the wood and every brick used in the construction coming from the hospital property.
    Page 3 of 3 - In the 60 years that the farm operated more than 1,000 patients worked in its fields and agricultural buildings. The farming operation at Farview ended in 1975.
    In 2001, the Farview State Hospital for the Criminally Insane officially became, and is today, the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Waymart.
    Museum programs
    The Wayne County Historical Society presents Sunday at the Museum at 2 on Aug. 4 with Dorothy Kieff relating the History of the Catholic Churches in Honesdale during the Canal Era. Plain Speaking at 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 9 will feature Albert G. "Ab" Rutherford presenting John C. Delaney: From Ireland to a Congressional Medal of Honor.
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