Originally called the “Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital,” the hospital was built in 1851 with intriguing classical revival architecture. The hospital began with just the Administration Building which housed all of approximately 250 patients. The famous mental health activist Dorothea Dix (1802-1887) lobbied for the transformation of psychiatric care for the insane. As evidence of her influence of the time, there is a building titled the “ Dorothea Dix Museum” on the hospital grounds. Reformation in psychiatric care lead to the hospital expansion utilizing the “cottage” style design.
In the 1980’s a new trend of “deinstitutionalization” psychiatric patients began resulting in hundreds of patients being discharged to the community to care for them (or not). Ultimately, like many other psychiatric hospitals the hospital closed in 2006.
Since then several movies have been filmed here including “Girl Interrupted” staring Angelina Jolie, Winona Ryder, and Whoopi Goldberg. The movie is based on a true story by author Susanna Kaysen's account of her 18 month stay in a mental hospital during the 1960's.
Then as of today, the haunting beauty of the hospital is all that remains. To view my photographs of Harrisburg State Hospital please visit: http://www.hauntedtraveler.com/p389336390
All photographs are available for purchase and licensing.