The Hawk Eye
Burlington, Des Moines, Iowa
March 9, 1861
The Iowa Lunatic Asylum — Formal Opening March 6th.
Wednesday last being a remarkably pleasant day, we took the early train West and visited the beautiful town of Mt. Pleasant, putting in the time until 4:30 in the town, and at the Lunatic Asylum.
Mt. Pleasant has improved greatly since we last saw it, notwithstanding that it is the most beautiful town in Iowa, and one of the most attractive as a place of residence. We noticed a large number of new and really fine residences, put up since we were there, several new business houses, and a new school house, probably the largest and finest in Iowa. Eight hundred children are in attendance in its walls, upon the public schools, which are said to be unsurpassed.
We yesterday, for the first time, visited our State Lunatic Asylum, one and one half miles East of Mt. Pleasant. We had never before been nearer it than the Railroad, which passes about one mile North. It is built of brown stone, procured near Mt. Pleasant, which looks remarkably well, and it is believed to be as durable and as little affected by frost or moisture as the best quality of Limestone. So far as we can see, it is just as good as granite, and looks about as well.
This is the first permanent building erected in the State. It is of large size. We have not the exact dimensions before us, but it is sufficient to say that when fully completed it will accommodate between 300 and 400 patients and will compare creditably with similar structures in other States. Accommodations are now provided for one hundred patients, and the other portion of the building will be got in readiness and furnished as fast as needed. Dr. Patterson, formerly of Ohio, assisted by Dr. Dewey of Iowa City, take charge of it. Dr. Patterson has had much experience in other States, in the treatment of this class of persons, and comes among us with an excellent reputation. We think we can venture to promise to the people of this State that under his management the Iowa Hospital for Insane persons will become one of the best in the country. Mr. Winslow remains as Steward. He has also had experience, and is entirely at home in his department.
Before diminishing the subject, we think simple justice to the Directors and builder, and to all parties concerned, under the circumstances, renders it proper for us to say something further in regard to this building and the manner in which the public have been expended upon it. When we look at its extent, at its massive walls and firm foundations that nothing short of an earthquake could move, at its innumerable rooms and dormitories, all the partition walls being of brick- at its miles of iron pipe for heating purposes, hot and cold water and gas- at its pipes and flues in every part of the building for purposes of ventilation- at its engine and boilers, kitchen and laundry, et cetera, et cetera, our wonder was that so much had been done for the sums appropriated by the State. The Institution it an honor to the State, and will stand an imperishable monument to the skill, business capacity, faithfulness, and probity of Mr. Wilslow. Every possible contingency seems to have entered into the account and been amply provided for. For instance, although it would seem hardly possible for it to occur, as there is little that can burn in the building and no fire used, yet if a fire should occur, sufficient hose is provided in every suit of apartments, and upon every floor, connecting with the cisterns in the garret, holding 25,000 barrels of water, while egress from the building is provided for by two different stairways. But we have not room for specifications. It would take up half our paper to describe all we saw noteworthy, and then we should fail. We hope, now that it is open and receiving patients, that all citizens of the State who can make it convenient to do so, will visit the Asylum. They will find it a very pleasant place to spend an hour or two, and, notwithstanding its grated windows, and unfortunate inmates, having a cheerful, orderly and happy look.
There was quite a large attendance upon the Inauguration ceremonies. A large number came in from the west mostly from Fairfield, while a few attended from Burlington. Mt. Pleasant turned out en masse, including the children from the Public Schools. The Mt. Pleasant Greys were out. A Brass Band from Fairfield and Choir from the Churches in Mt. Pleasant gave us excellent vocal and instrumental music. At 1 o’clock the chapel and halls adjoining were crowded. We found it impracticable getting within hearing distance and did not hear the speeches. Gov. Kirkwood did not attend, as expected. Dr. McGugin, of Keokuk, spoke at some length, giving an interesting account of the treatment of insane persons at different periods and the progress which had of late years been made in effecting cures of large numbers and greatly ameliorating the condition of the hopelessly incurable. Dr. Patterson made a brief speech. He says insanity is almost always curable when taken early- after six months sixty per cent are curable and as the time increase the per cent curable is diminished. Col Sanders, of Henry, and Mr. Scott, of Story, made neat and appropriate speeches.