The First Oregon State Hospital Replacement Project, 1883

16 09 2009
The Oregon State Hospital is in the midst of a rebirth. The Oregon State Hospital Replacement project is in full gear, working on revamping and replacing the well-worn J-building, which was itself part of a replacement project in 1883. The following is a transcription of an article appearing in the Morning Oregonian, October 24, 1883.


oregonian masthead cropped
The New Insane Asylum.

Full Description of the Home Prepared for the State’s Wards.


History of the Structure and the Manner in Which it was Erected.

[Special Correspondence of the Oregonian.]

Salem, Oct. 23.

The completion of the new insane asylum building and its readiness for the reception of the patients brings the institution into prominence, and demands at the hands of THE OREGONIAN a complete description of the building.  With this object in view your correspondent has recently visited the building, and from the architect and others has recurred facts and figures of sufficient interest to merit publication. We have availed ourselves of the privilege accorded us of examining and culling from the public records, and have found them convenient while authentic.


The legislative assembly of the state of Oregon for the year 1880 passed an act entitled “An act to provide for the construction of a brick insane asylum building, to levy a tax and appropriate money therefore;” which act was approved by the governor, October 25, 1880. By it was created a board of commissioners for its erection, which consisted of Hon. Z. F. Moody, governor, Hon. R. P. Earhart, secretary of state, and Hon. Edward Hirsch, state treasurer.  It evidently being the aim and intention of the legislative assembly to provide for the care by the state of the insane and idiotic patients immediately upon the expiration of the contract then existing between it and Dr. J.C. Hawthorne, as made by the governor under the provisions of an act approved October, 1878, which authorized and directed him to contract for the care and keeping of the insane and idiotic for six years from December 1, 1878, provided “that if, at the expiration of four years the state shall have provided a state insane asylum, then the contractor shall turn the patients under his charge over to the state,” the board lost no time in organizing, and entered upon its duties without unnecessary delay. W.F. Boothby, Esq., of Salem, was appointed supervising architect, and the board advertised for plans and specifications, a number of which were in due time prepared and presented for its consideration.  Being especially desirous when called upon to decide a question of such momentous importance to the public, to avail themselves of advice of persons of practical experience more particularly in relation it its sanitary requirements, the board called to its assistance several well known and experienced physicians from various parts of the state, including the late Dr. J.C. Hawthorne of East Portland, Dr. H. Carpenter of Portland, Dr. J.R. Bayley of Corvallis and Drs. S.R. Jessup and J.W. McAfee of Salem were present during the examination of the plans submitted, and whose suggestions were of great benefit to the board, evincing a desire on their part to allow no detail, however minute, to escape their attention that would in any degree ameliorate the condition of the unfortunate class for whose care and treatment the structure under advisement was to be erected.

            A careful and critical examination of the several plans presented satisfied the board that while each possessed many meritorious points, no one of them met the exact requirements of the case, the chief obstacle in the way of their adoption being that, as a rule, the plans submitted called for a more expensive and elaborate structure than the state required at the present time, or would require for a number of years to come.  Desirous, however of availing themselves of certain ideas or suggestions advanced by each competitor, the board effected an arrangement by which it was permitted to select certain points of particular merit from each, paying therefore a pro rata compensation.  At the request of the board, Mr. Boothby then prepared a set of plans and specifications, embracing, so far as practicable the more meritorious points of all, together with additions made by himself, which upon completion were unanimously adopted, and which have been carefully followed in the erection of the building.

            Bids were then advertised for furnishing lumber, lime, cement and other building material, and satisfactory contracts entered into with responsible parties, which have been faithfully performed.  Arrangements were also made with the authorities of the Oregon state penitentiary, by which convict labor was to be furnished as required; and a contract made with George Collins, Esq., for the number of brick necessary for the completion of the building.  Work was commenced on the foundations in May, 1881, since which time it has been pushed forward as rapidly as circumstances would permit.

            The state has been peculiarly fortunate in its selection of a building site for the asylum, it having been located upon the grounds purchased by a board of commissioners created under an act approved October 21, 1861.  The location chosen is especially adapted to the object in view.  The building is erected on the summit of a rising knoll, which gives it a commanding view of the surrounding country.  The grounds are of a sufficient although convenient distance from the business part of the city, being about one-half mile north of the penitentiary and directly opposite the Orphans’ home.  There are about 107 acres of land that properly belongs to the asylum, which area, carefully managed, will perhaps produce sufficient vegetables to supply the institution at the present time, but it will, no doubt, be necessary to purchase additional ground as its demands increase.  The soil immediately surrounding the building is susceptible of a high state of cultivation, thus enabling art to complete what nature has left undone to make the grounds and immediate view pleasing to the eye of the inmates.  Ample provision has been made by which the system of drainage can be perfected by means of a sewerage connection with the main sewer of this city, which passes down Court street and finds an outlet in the Willamette river below the business part of town.


The act of 1880 authorizing the construction of the building, appropriated the sum of $100,000, which appropriation was expended, and in its expenditure the board of commissioners displayed such excellent judgment and made so favorable a showing that the legislative assembly of 1882 appropriated the further sum of $44,000 for completing the building and the further sum of $40,000 for furnishing the same.  These appropriations have not, of course, been overdrawn, and the building stands completed today at an actual expense to the state of something less than 141,000, the appropriation not yet being quite exhausted.  This is, of course, exclusive of convict labor which has been utilized to a considerable extent.  The building will compare very favorably with that of many of our sister states in point of convenience and design, and as regards its cost, it is generally conceded that the building has been erected at less than one-half the expense of any asylum in the United States providing accommodations for an equal number of patients.  This is saying considerable, but statistics will bear me out in my assertion.


            In the following description of the building I have culled somewhat from the report of Mr. Boothby, the supervising architect to the board of building commissioners.  It will prove of interest to your readers, and of historical value as well.  The structure being of a permanent character and designed to supply a long felt want, every taxpayer feels a personal interest in the institution.


            The style of architecture adopted is modified Italian, the details being bold and effective.  Its extreme frontage, including all projections, is 483 feet, with a wing at either end running east to the depth of 220[?] feet 2 inches. The office of main building is four stories in hight [sic], surmounted with an ornamental tower rising to the hight [sic] of 120 feet to the top of the vane.  The distance around the entire building is very near one-half mile.  The wings at each extremity of the front are carried up three and one-half stories and surmounted with cupolas and iron cresting; the wards between the main building and the wings being three stories in hight [sic].  The center of the cone of the roof on ward buildings is ornamented with a large ventilating shaft of unique design which is placed over the day room, with smaller ventilators on either side.  The rooms in the ward buildings have 12 foot ceilings.  All ward buildings are 42 feet wide, allowing 12 foot corridors throughout the entire structure.  The window caps and string courses are carried in a continuous line the entire length of the building.  All the openings, doors windows, etc., are finished with bold label moulds which end on the string courses and render a very pleasing effect.  The coves have a projection of three feet, supported by open cut brackets.  It has been the aim of the architect to produce a suitable and commodious structure without useless ornamentation or elaboration.  The building will furnish ample a commodation [sic] for 412 patients together with the necessary number of officers and employee.


Including the outside and division walls are of first class brick laid up in the most workmanlike manner, with lime and cement mortar in the proportion of one barrel of cement to three barrels of lime, which insures the greatest strength and durability.  The outside wall is hollow with three inch air space and four inches of brick on the exterior.  These walls are closely anchored with iron anchors sixteen inches apart on every fifth course.  The inner wall varies from 12-16 inches in thickness.  A current of air passes from the basement through the cavity in the walls and escapes through the ventilating shafts above, which prevents the formation of mould or condensation of moisture, which, by this means, is carried above, leaving the inner wall dry.  Experience teaches that this is the only system of hollow walls that will insure a dry wall in this climate where rains are so prevalent.


Realizing the importance of solid foundation for a building of such dimensions as it was intended this should be, the greatest of care has been used in excavating for the foundation and proportioning the width of the same in accordance with the weight it was compelled to sustain.   The builders were favored by striking a strata of hard-pan composed of clay cement of sufficient thickness to insure a firm foundation.  The excavations were made with an average depth of four feet from the earth’s surface.


            The material use for the foundation is generally known as “trap rock” and is considered among the hardest and most durable of nature’s formations.  The character of the work is what is called the Ruble stone work, nicely laid with lime mortar and neatly pointed with hydraulic cement.


            The basement under the ward building, being 7 feet 4 inches in the clear, is constructed for the purpose of providing room for the railways intended to convey food and other necessaries from the kitchen to the dumb-waiters for the various dining rooms on the floors above, and also for furnace and wood rooms.  The basement of the kitchen building is 10 feet 4 inches in hight [sic] and is located directly in the rest of the main or office building.  It is 43×60 feet in size and divided into the following apartments: Kitchen, 23 ½ x 25 ½; vegetable kitchen, 15×18 ½; scullery, 8×15; bakery, 15×25 ½; coal room, 8×15; wine room, 8×15; with stairway leading to store room above and necessary dish closet, water closet, bath room, etc., to accommodate the kitchen help.  A car track runs from the kitchen to the center of the building, connecting with a turn-table, enabling the car to run either to the right or left, as desired.


Of the office building is 13 feet in the clear, the main entrance being on the west or principle front.  The entrance hall is 10 feet in width, with the office of the superintendent, 15×25, on the right, connected with which is his private office, 16×20.  On the left of the hall is the general reception room, 1[illegible] x 23, connected with which is the library, 16×20.  This hall intersects with one running north and south, 8 feet in width.  Connecting with this is the dispensary, supervisors’ and matron’s reception rooms, water closet, bath rooms, etc.  The principal hall extends east to the kitchen building s as shown by the plan.  This building contains the officers’ dining room, 15 ½ x 25, which is located on the right as you enter the kitchen building, and is provided with all the modern conveniences, including pantrys, dumb-waiters, etc.  On the left is the officers’ washroom, bathing room, water closet, etc., immediately in the rear of which is the steward’s office.  A stairway connects these apartments with the kitchen below, the remaining portion o [sic] the floor being divided into six sleeping rooms for the kitchen help.  The supervisors’ and matrons’ reception rooms, as may be seen on first floor plan, connect with an iron door or fire-proof passage-way with halls in the ward buildings.  The female ward being to the right, and the male ward to the left.  From these halls in the ward buildings stairway lead to the floors above, connecting with each corridor, enabling officers to visit any war in the building without disturbing the inmates of other wards.

            The ward staircases communicate with porches on the outside, which porches also communicate with the north and south hall in the office building.  Both wards connecting with the main building are provided with four points of ingress and egress, two connecting with the main corridors and two with staircase halls at either end of the building.  The staircase halls are especially designed as a means of easy escape in case of fire.  Doors connecting with other buildings afford two additional means of exit in case of imperative danger, making six points of egress which may be utilized at a moment’s notice.  A description of these wards serve as a correct description of all the wards in the building, twelve in number, with the female wards on the south side and the male wards on the north side.  The corridors are 12 feet wide in the main wards and 168 feet in length.  Those in the wing wards are 11×155.  In the center of each ward is a day room 20×23 feet in size, made off from this corridor and projecting in front, which will be used as sitting rooms for the patients.  They are furnished with upholstered seats and are light and pleasant, having windows on three sides and affording a splendid view of the surrounding country.  Directly in the rear of the day rooms and in the center of each ward are the lavatories 7×14 feet, bath rooms 8×11, and the linen rooms 6×11.  Back of these and outside of the main ward buildings are the water closets, 11 ½ x 12, one above the other on each of the three floors, and are surmounted by the water tanks, four in number, each with a capacity of 6000 gallons.  The space on either side of the corridors is divided into apartments which may be briefly described as follows.  Attendants’ room in suites at either end with a sitting room 12×14 and a sleeping room attached.  The remainder of the front is divided into fourteen single sleeping rooms for patients, each 7×12.  The space on the opposite and rear side of the corridor is sub-divided into four double sleeping rooms, size 9×14, three dormitories 14×18 ½, and one dining room 14×30 feet, embracing all of the latest improvements in the way of closets and other accessories, including dumb waiters connected with the kitchen in the basement below.  The dumb-waiters are provided with contrivances which open and close the doors as they pass from one floor to another, presenting when not in motion, the appearance of an ordinary cupboard, and obviating all danger of injury to patients in their frenzied endeavors to escape by means of their descent from the rooms above.  The east half of the north and south wards on this floor are especially constructed for the use of violent patients.


Of the main office building is arranged especially for the accommodation of the superintendent’s family and assistants and contains parlors, sitting room, chambers, bathrooms, water-closets and all other necessary closets.  On the rear of this floor is the supervisor’s and matron’s rooms and apothecary’s room. The north and south halls of this story correspond with those on the first floor.  The east hall leading to the chapel or amusement room, located over the officers’ dinning room, is a large and airy apartment 42 x60 feet in size.  It is conveniently situated and so arranged that the patients enter the room from their respective wards by passing through the verandahs which connect the hall leading thereto.


Of the main building contains spare rooms for the assistant physician, matron and steward, bathroom, water closet, lavatory, clothes rooms, sewing rooms, etc.  This floor as to arrangement and size of the rooms, is duplicate of the floor below.


Is divided into seven large rooms, the arrangement and size of which correspond with those of the floor below, including necessary clothes-presses, water closets, bath rooms, lavatories, etc.  These rooms may be used as infirmaries, sewing rooms, or apartments for private patients.


Is covered with tin, the under side of which has been painted, standing seam, the material used being the best 14×20 I.C. charcoal roofing tin.  All gutters are formed on top of the cornice, conductors being four inches in diameter, of galvanized iron, running down the outside of the building and connecting with tile pipe, from whence the water is carried to the general sewer pipe which passes under the center of the building.  This method insures safety against flooding in case the pipe becomes frozen during the winter months.  The work has been done in a in a first-class manner by Ben. Strang and John W. Crawford of this city, who together completed the job.


            The building is lighted with gas, the pipes having already been introduced for that purpose, and so arranged as to distribute the light with the greatest economy, and enable it to be shut off from any portion of the building, should it become necessary, all pipe joints being accessible in case of repair.  It is so arranged that the gas is manufactured or secured from the public works in the city. It is generally conceded that gas is superior to any other illuminator now in use, as regards cleanliness, safety and convenience.


            The plumbing has been done with the view of affording an ample supply of hot and cold water to all lavatories, sinks, bath-rooms, wash bowls, urinals and water closets, and such other purposes as may be considered necessary including two fire plugs in each ward.  Each of the various wards is provided with a 6000 gallon tank placed above, making an aggregate of 24,000 gallons.  Special attention has been paid to the character of the work and the proper distribution of the water, all waste pipes having proper ventilation and separate discharges.  Arrangements have been made to secure a permanent supply of water from the penitentiary grounds, by the erection of pumps of sufficient capacity to meet the demands of both institutions, and is conveyed to the asylum by means of four-inch iron pipes.


            The best and most approved system has been introduced, using the finest quality of terra cotta pipe, nicely jointed with hydraulic cement.  The main discharge pipe passes under the center of the building and extends 400 feet west, with sufficient fall. Branch pipes have been laid on the front and rear sides of the building, receiving all soil pipes, waste pipes and down pipes from the roof, the latter acting as a ventilator for the sewer pipes.  All drainage pipes are trapped according to the latest revised sanitary requirements.


            The connecting doors through main and wing wards, and between the wards, chapel and office building are constructed of wood, substantially covered on each side with heavy sheet iron [illegible] having been practically demonstrated that doors so constructed withstand the head more successfully than do those constructed wholly of wrought iron, which warp when exposed to the fire, forming orifices which create a draught, forcing the flame through the openings thus made.


            The building is headed by the hot air system, seven of W.H. Moore’s patent hot air furnaces being placed in the basement for that purpose.  The reasons for adopting this character of furnace are these: Economy in its original cost, the small expense necessary to keep it in repair, and the fact that its actual running expenses are much less, it requiring no skilled labor in its care and management.  The commissioners are also satisfied that they will require less fuel than any other style of furnace, for the reason that its means of transmitting heat are direct, none being wasted by contact with foreign substances.  The cold air is taken directly form the outside of the building and conveyed to the expansive chambers through what is called the cold air duct, and there heated to any degree of temperature desired, and from thence conveyed through large metallic tubes to all parts of the building, and discharged at the floor through ornamental iron registers.  The apparatus is so arranged that the heat can be easily regulated or entirely shut off from any or all apartments if necessary.


            The system adopted in the construction of this building is one which the board of commissioners consider perfect in every detail, and may be briefly described as follows:  A flue is constructed in the partition walls between the various corridors and the rooms on either side, extending from the basement to the attic.  In the baseboard at the floor in every apartment is an iron register opening directly into the flue described above, a register also opening from the corridor into the same flue directly opposite, thus making an air passage between the corridors and adjoining rooms.  In addition to this, as has already been stated, all inside doors are provided with open wire transoms.  The doors and windows of the patients’ rooms throughout the building are directly opposite each other, thus creating a direct draught without endangering the health of the inmate whose bed is placed to one side and away from the draught.  Bearing in mind the well established principle that heated air naturally rises you will at once perceive the superiority of the system introduced.  The hot air registers being located in the corridors heats the air therein, which rising toward the ceiling finds admission through the transoms into the adjoining rooms, thus forcing the cold air impregnated more or less with carbonic acid gas exhaled from the lungs of the inmate, which in the night especially, all being quite within the apartment, naturally sinks to the floor, where it finds an exit through the iron register prepared for that purpose, and is, by the draught created in the flue by means of the ventilating shaft especially constructed for that purpose, carried to the attic, and thence to the ventilating shaft on the roof.  These flues discharge into a box shaft which is placed in the attic, and laid on an incline connecting with the interior of a large ventilating shaft, so constructed with a double wall as to produce a vacuum, and is thus forced to an escape through the roof above.


Some of the principal features introduced fro the pleasure and comfort of the patients, are the extensive verandahs which are located at the rear of the office building and extend from the corridors of the main wards to the hallway connecting the office and chapel buildings.  These verandahs are protected on the outside with a coarse mesh wire netting, each overlooking the conservatories located on the ground floor, and are intended more especially for invalid patients who are unable to secure recreation in the courts below, and for general usage during the rainy season.




One response

8 09 2010
Exodus of the Insane/Safe Arrival In Salem, 1883 « Oregon State Hospital Museum Project

[…] transfer of patients from the Oregon Hopsital for the Insane in East Portland to the newly built Oregon State Insane Asylum (OSIA) in Salem appeared in the Oregonian October 24th, 1883.  Prior to the completion of a […]

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