Abandoned Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia is a decaying witness to changing attitudes toward mental illness and asylums.

If you are a Georgia native of a certain age, a scolding like this from your parents would make your blood run cold:

“You best behave yourself or I’m sending you to Milledgeville!”

You knew they weren’t talking about the charming, former state capital of Georgia with its grand antebellum homes, towering oak trees and vibrant universities. Instead, they were talking about Milledgeville’s sprawling, ominous mental asylum just a couple of miles up the road.

Known today as Central State Hospital, this now abandoned asylum was once one of the largest mental hospitals in the United States. Its long and often controversial history mirrors our country’s constantly changing attitudes toward mental illness.

Where is Central State Hospital in Georgia?

Milledgeville (population 18,704) is the county seat of Baldwin County in central Georgia, 98 miles east of Atlanta. Central State Hospital, though only a couple of miles out of town (Google Maps), seems worlds away from Milledgeville’s quaint downtown district, a magnet for tourists and nearby college students.

Driving around the largely abandoned campus there is an eerie calm belying its often chaotic past, when it was overrun with patients committed for all manner of mental afflictions, rightly or wrongly.

On the front side of campus, once-majestic buildings of Gothic-inspired design sit decaying on the edges of a shady pecan grove. Their roofs are rotted and collapsed in spots, slowly succumbing to the elements. While inside, lead paint peels off the moldy walls, and thick vines slither through shattered windows.

While on the back side, more institutional-looking brick buildings dot the rolling hillsides once farmed by patients both as treatment and servitude. Acres of empty fields hold the remains of thousands of unidentified patients, many forever lost.

Some believe Central State Hospital is haunted. Not by one particular ghost or horrific event, but a compounding of many years of suffering. So-called “dark tourists” may flock to the campus these days. But the real story of Central State Hospital is a more complicated tale of good intentions, tragic mistakes and heroism. All mirroring our country’s changing attitudes toward the mentally ill.

Early Treatment of the Mentally Ill

Until the early 19th century, mental illness was a misunderstood disease. Many felt lunacy was the result of demonic possession, with punishment by God or man the only treatment. As a result, people diagnosed (or misdiagnosed) as “lunatics” were often thrown in prison, shunned in communities or farmed out as virtual slaves. While others were simply the dirty secret best kept at home.

In Georgia, these attitudes began to change in 1834 when Governor Wilson Lumpkin, addressing public concern for the plight of those afflicted, fought for state care of the “idiots, lunatics and insane.” Consequently, the Georgia General Assembly approved the creation of a dedicated “lunacy commission.”

Milledgeville Physicians and the First Asylum

Among the first commission members were an influential group of physicians from Milledgeville, then the state capital and epicenter of wealth and power. Riding through Milledgeville at the time, it was common to find bustling streets lined with cotton bales from surrounding farms, waiting for shipment downriver to the Georgia port of Darien on the Atlantic Ocean.

Sketch of first building, Central State Hospital, Milledgeville, Georgia 1842
Sketch of the first building at Georgia State Lunatic Asylum, now Central State Hospital. Image courtesy of Central State Hospital Museum, Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

The Milledgeville physicians influenced the state legislature to authorize the creation of a “State Lunatic, Idiot, and Epileptic Asylum” on December 28, 1837. It would be the first institution of its kind to treat all three afflictions (as they were then known). Shortly thereafter, a 40 acre plot of land just two miles south of Milledgeville was purchased for $4000. This plot was chosen due to its proximity to town and the physicians’ practices. Milledgeville’s centralized location also made it convenient for statewide patients.

Five years later, this Milledgeville asylum was turned over to its trustees, who then appointed Dr. David Cooper as the first superintendent. These trustees were only reimbursed for their everyday expenses, as it was thought small salaries would not attract a high calibre of physician. But the trustees considered hospital work to be a public service. Hence, physicians like Dr. Cooper could continue their private practices in Milledgeville while also overseeing the asylum.

First Buildings and Patients

The first asylum buildings were typical brick structures with wood roofs, 3-4 floors each. Each floor had around 20 rooms with glass windows and cast iron fixed window sashes, opening into an airy hallway. Oil lamps and torches provided light.

Men lived in the first two floors, while women occupied the top floors and were supervised by a matron. Slave attendants and servants lived in the basement next to the large iron stove that heated the building. Eight staff members managed the entire institution.

The first patients arrived with a variety of mental disorders, from religious hallucinations to paranoia, depression and alcoholism. Georgia residents deemed “lunatics,” “idiots” or “epileptics” had to first stand trial before a jury with at least one physician. If judged to be a danger to the community, they were sent to the Milledgeville asylum in chains. Unruly patients were locked in special, blue-colored rooms. If this soothing color didn’t work, they were chained to a chair in the corner to make sure.

“Institution As Family”

Dr. Cooper applied the then-radical model of the “institution as family.” He believed patients were best treated by an extended family of strangers. At home, the patients’ conditions might be misunderstood, or emotional attachments could keep them from being cured. Patients were encouraged to work in the garden, field or workshop to gain a sense of usefulness.

Another prominent Milledgeville physician named Dr. Thomas A Green became asylum superintendent in 1845. Dr. Green built upon the “institution as family” model. New patients would frequently arrive at the asylum in horrible condition – beaten, filthy and in shackles. Dr. Green made it a personal ritual to release these shackles as soon as the patients arrived, giving them a new level of freedom within the institution. He regularly ate with staff and patients, and abolished further physical restraints.

Of the 200 patients admitted, only a small number were kept in isolation. Even when the institution became overcrowded, Dr. Green had a reputation for not turning people away.

Milledgeville, ca. 1894. Two nurses in uniform pose for a photograph at State Lunatic Asylum, now known as Central State Hospital.
Nurses at Georgia State Lunatic Asylum (1894), now Central State Hospital.Image courtesy of Central State Hospital Museum, Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

Milledgeville and the Civil War

From the early days, funding the Milledgeville asylum was a challenge. At first it was believed the hospital could be partially self-sustaining by admitting paid patients. But this system soon became untenable.

Dr. Green asked for more state money to complete the hospital, build a library and chapel, and purchase more land. But with the Civil War ravaging the state’s cotton economy, families could no longer pay for treatment of their loved ones. Rising operational costs left the hospital’s financial fate even more in the hands of the political machine.

By the time Union general William T. Sherman marched through Georgia, the hospital was already in dire straits. Though Sherman spared the hospital from destruction, it now had little support from the defeated state.

Dr. Green admitted refugees from other Southern states where hospitals were in Union hands. With the able-bodied off to war, older and infirm staff could hardly handle patient care. Supplies were scarce, and Dr. Green resorted to scouring the countryside for food and money, selling off what little the hospital had for cash.

Another challenge from the South’s defeat was the increasing black patient population freed by the war. Though not as segregated as other institutions, the hospital had no separate buildings for black patients as required by law, leaving them to sleep outside on hospital grounds. In 1866 the first “colored only” building was built on campus, the start of an eventual second campus.

Abandoned Asylum, Jones Buiilding at Central State Hospital, Milledgeville, Georgia 2021
Jones Building at Central State Hospital, Milledgeville, Georgia, 2021.

An Overcrowded Asylum

By 1872, 4 doctors treated 448 patients at the hospital, with an annual budget of $100,000. To control the population, Dr. Green only admitted non-violent patients, putting 2-3 together in small, 10-12 foot rooms. Dr. Green believed the earlier patients were treated (1 year or less), the more successful treatment would be and the patients could return home.

But despite his best efforts, the explosion in new patients was just beginning.

Dr. Theophilus Powell, assistant physician to Dr. Green and a noted scholar of psychiatry, became superintendent in 1874. Dr. Powell immediately inherited the growing issue of patient overcrowding. The Milledgeville asylum had become a dumping ground not just for the truly insane, but for communities looking to get rid of their unwanted (alcoholics, criminals, the elderly). Other patients simply had nowhere else to go.

Adding to the chaos, a law passed making the asylum free for all state citizens. Part of this reasoning was due to political pressure. State legislators were keen on taking care of patients from their home districts. While Milledgeville lawmakers wanted to keep the asylum constantly in business for their friends who worked there.

Dr. Powell and his staff developed more accurate methods of diagnosis to try to keep the population manageable. In 1886, a new law passed allowing patients to return home who were deemed incurable but harmless, to make room for those who could be treated. Dr. Powell continued the work, exercise and amusement programs for patients. An on-site railroad station and construction of a new hospital building led to a flood of new patient applications.

georgia Lunatic Asylum Plaque 1883, Milledgeville, GA
Georgia Lunatic Asylum Plaque (1883) at Central State Hospital, Milledgeville, Georgia.

Abuse, Neglect and Racial Tension

At the dawn of the 20th century, overcrowding had become a major problem at the facility now renamed the Georgia State Sanitarium. By 1910, 12 doctors cared for 3347 patients. Decrease in care was inevitable, with numerous reports of abuse, neglect, unsanitary facilities and seclusion rooms surfacing. Staff could only take care of the patients’ basic needs, unable to provide appropriate treatment for all their illnesses.

Many patients whose mental state was diagnosed as “unclassified” were simply lost in the system. This led to many stories – some true, others just folktales – of loved ones vanishing in the bowels of the sanitarium.

In 1921, segregation of black patients came to an end. But racial tension was still a reality in the community at large. Four years later, the first reported murder of a hospital staff member occurred. Amy Oxford, a popular nurse, was struck in the back of the head with an axe handle by a black patient, who then returned to his work quietly. As news spread, local townspeople broke into the building where the patient was in seclusion, killing him in the same manner.

Hospital staff still considered farm work a helpful activity for the patients. 800 acres of nearby farmland took care of the facility’s food needs, tended by the patients. Although this program offered little in the way of actual treatment, it developed and nurtured job skills the patients could use back home when discharged.

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

Georgia State Sanitarium changed its name again in 1929 to Milledgeville State Hospital, a reflection of society’s evolving views toward the mentally ill and treatment. By now the hospital had become a small city, with 6000 patients in treatment (600 per physician) and a waiting list of 1500. Many buildings were deteriorating and had become fire traps. In response, the hospital expanded to include 132 more acres. Four new hospital buildings made of brick and modern interiors were built, plus a dedicated tuberculosis ward.

Powell Building, Central State Hospital, Milledgeville, Georgia
Powell Building, Central State Hospital, Milledgeville, Georgia.

By the 1940s, Milledgeville State Hospital had over 10,000 patients averaging 20 year residencies. Attendants and nurses worked 60-70 hour weeks, with nurses making around $74 a month. It was later believed thousands of patients could have been sent home as harmless. Many patients claimed to have been “railroaded” into the institution by others, for various reasons.

But poor state financing and draining of able-bodied staff during World War II meant radical treatment was needed to stem the unrelenting tide of patients.

Shock Treatments and Lobotomies

To combat the untenable conditions, more radical forms of treatment such as insulin shock and electroshock therapy (also known as electroconvulsive therapy or ECT) became commonplace.

Hospital staff administered electroshocks at their discretion on a mass assembly basis. Patients were frequently confused if shocks were being given as treatment or punishment. Afterwards, nurses walked patients back to the day room in a stupor. While hospital chaos died down thanks to electroshocks, memory loss in patients was common, unpredictable and sometimes permanent – helping wipe out, as some advocates noted, any memories of abuse.

“Shock treatment makes you forget what you want to remember and remember what you want to forget.”

Peter Cranford
BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD: MILLEDGEVILLE!

Lobotomies were introduced in 1951 for especially chronic cases. 125 severely ill patients were lobotomized, with only 24 able to return home. An unknown number became even worse.

Atlanta newspapers ran frequent articles on patient abuse and deteriorating hospital conditions, becoming one of the few advocates patients had. State politics continued to influence hospital policies, with the board pressured by politicians to appoint staff as political favors, and to patient levels high for economic profit.

In the 1960s the now-renamed Central State Hospital had over 12,000 patients and vied with Pilgrim State Hospital in New York as the largest facility in the country.

Thousands of Unmarked Graves

“Rows upon rows of numbered, small, rusted markers as far as you can see. No names, just numbers. It must be the most gruesome sight in Georgia. Unknown humans, shunned when living, deprived of their very name in death – and literally known only to God.”

Peter Cranford
BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD: MILLEDGEVILLE!

While some patients treated at Central State Hospital eventually returned home, many did not, literally disappearing into the earth. Today what looks like pastoral, rolling fields is actually a massive potter’s field for tens of thousands of patients, many feared lost forever.

In 1938, construction crews dug up an African-American cemetery to make room for a new building. With the caskets long disintegrated, remains were placed into small boxes and moved closer together to save space. These tiny plots were marked only by simple metal poles with identification numbers.

The use of these numbered poles instead of headstones was common on hospital grounds. It is believed around 30,000 patients are buried at Central State Hospital in six neglected cemeteries, both African-American and white. Consequently, Central State Hospital contains one of the largest graveyards in the world for people with mental disabilities.

Cedar Lane Cemetery at Sunset, Central State Hospital, Milledgeville, Georgia
Cedar Lane Cemetery at Central State Hospital, Milledgeville, Georgia.
Numbered grave markers, Cedar Lane Cemetery, Central State Hospital, Milledgeville, Georgia
Numbered grave markers, Cedar Lane Cemetery, Central State Hospital, Milledgeville, Georgia

Cedar Lane Cemetery

In the 1960s, prison inmates on groundskeeping detail tossed thousands of numbered markers into the woods without recording their locations. Other markers were lost in underbrush. As memories faded it was no longer clear where the true burial plots were. As a result, Central State Hospital Cemetery a.k.a. Cedar Lane Cemetery became one giant, unmarked plot.

In response, groups of volunteers like the Georgia Consumer Council worked to identify as many graves and patients as possible. Some recovered markers were placed in a special memorial. State and national media covered their efforts, and donations began trickling in. To help the fundraising effort, Dr. Peter Cranford, a former clinical psychologist at Central State Hospital, donated the printing rights to his book But For The Grace of God: Milledgeville!, recognized as the definitive history of the asylum.

Is Central State Hospital Still Open?

Toward the end of the 20th century, patient numbers at Central State Hospital dropped dramatically. With improved medications, home treatment, construction of new facilities statewide and less stigma toward mental illness, the need for such a massive and crowded institution died away. As of this writing only 165 seriously ill patients remain, committed by the courts.

Therefore, the question became what to do with the nearly 2000-acre campus. Once one of Milledgeville’s top employers, Central State Hospital’s downsizing was a significant economic blow to the community. But Milledgeville was not alone – numerous old asylums around the world suddenly became obsolete. So a worldwide movement began to reuse these asylum properties as everything from arts centers and offices to high end condos.

For this reason, the state of Georgia tasked the Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority (CSHLRA) with finding economic development opportunities on private, state or federal levels. In early 2019, the CSHLRA rebranded the hospital grounds as Renaissance Park to attract future investment.

While small businesses have since repurposed some of the inactive buildings, the challenge remains to find new economic partners. Especially for the large, decrepit buildings drawing the most interest from curiosity seekers.

Can You Tour Central State Hospital?

The Milledgeville Visitors Center now offers daily trolley tours of the campus grounds, including Cedar Lane Cemetery and the Chapel Of All Faiths.

The campus is home to numerous outdoor activities throughout the year, including a bike race, music and food festivals, and staff reunions in the beautiful pecan grove. The ME Film Festival even hosts a horror movie night on the grounds near the Chapel of All Faiths.

However, entrance into many of the historic hospital buildings is strictly forbidden. Decades of neglect have made these boarded-up buildings too hazardous to enter (any interior photos featured in this article were obtained with staff permission).

In short, society’s treatment of mental illness has come a long way from early religious zealotry to modern day home care and patient counseling. Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia stands as a silent monument to the timeline of psychological health in this country. To some it will always be a painful reminder of past abuse and trauma. But to others, the hospital was home to scores of tireless workers seeking to calm and treat mental afflictions we still struggle to understand.

For a deeper look into the history of Central State Hospital, see the photo gallery below.

All photos by Craig Dominey unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.

Special thanks to Nancy Davisbray and Kari Brown at Georgia College & State University for all their help with this article.

-THE END-

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This Post Has 117 Comments

  1. Betty Lue

    My great grandmother (African American) died in this hospital in 1942. I petitioned for release of her records which only stated she died of “mental exhaustion.” Her body was shipped by railroad in a box to Washington, Wilkes County, GA. I am shivering with sadness and pain after reading this article.

  2. David Walker, MD

    I was the clinical director of forensics for 5.5 years between 2003 & 2009. Staff during that time worked hard to improve the care of patients. Those years have been some of the most rewarding of my career. It was a privilege to have worked with many dedicated, caring people. I am proud of the care we provided to many of Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens.

  3. Jo Ann Capua (Ryder)

    My mother passed away two years ago at the age of 85, and her stay (or should I say that she was locked up) for almost two months at this mental hospital was never let go by her. My mom was the many that received electrical shock treatment during the 1960’s. Mom was only 34 years old at the time, and all it took was a signature from my dad to put her there. My sisters and I saw first hand what this treatment did to our mother. It is a part of our lives. J

  4. Nicki Scott

    Unfortunately much of the history will disappear soon. Word is spreading locally that the college will be transforming these buildings into more college grounds, dorms to be specific. GCSU apparently has already begun purchasing bits and pieces.

  5. T page

    Great article!

  6. T page

    For anyone wanting to do research there are record books in the basement of the main building. They are separated by year with the name, reason, and the date of the committal. If your relative died there it also gives the date of death. I spent several hours trying to find a relative. It has to be done the old fashion way. You also have to make an appointment which will require the patience of Job and repeated request. It takes a while for them to get back to you.

  7. S. Rose

    My aunt spent 10 years at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville from 1961-71.She died of smoking-related lung disease in 1996 and didn’t talk much about her stay there except that she knew a woman there who always liked how she hand-rolled her own cigarettes.

  8. William C Jones

    I remember I was there for first time when I came to csh and stay at boland building it was back in 70 or 71 then they moved me allen building and I was in school in boland,I’m so glad got out from csh on 1972…But I have some bad memory for being there and it was very crazy to see strange things,but I will never forget as long I lived…

  9. Vicki Gross

    I was a music therapy intern in 1974 at CSH. At that time, Saralynn Latham was the director of 35 music therapists and there were 7 interns from all around the country. We were supplemented with a room in the Nurses Dorm, free meals, and a very small stipend split among us 7 interns. We worked about a month in each bldg. and spent a month with a guy who provided square dances and folk dancing instruction. We had our own little band and provided entertainment for the patients. At the conclusion of my internship was the beginning of deinstitutionalization where patients were placed according to the county they lived in to facilitate integrating patients back into their respective communities.
    What a great learning experience I had at CSH! CSH was like a city with everything imagineable provided for patients and staff. I’m sure I did not see many of the atrocities that happened there, but like any city, life is what it is – some good and some not so good. For the most part, medications were just coming out to help people manage their mental challenges. After the institutions closed and people went to their respective homes, community mental health centers were more prevalent in patient care. But what I think is people were cared for in a mostly safe and enjoyable environment, whereas now they are lost in the cracks of society and are on the streets vulnerable, homeless and uncared for. Many of our mentally ill are now housed in prisons and jails, so all in all the institutional life of the mentally ill was more humane and better funded back then. Thank you for remembering CSH. Some of the music therapists that have worked there over the years are considering a type of reunion.

    1. Thank you so much for your comments, Vicki. I passed them along to the CSH redevelopment staff and those interested in the place. This is a part of the story I haven’t heard before!

  10. Vicky

    Wow, how fascinating! I found a picture of the representation of graves on Pinterest and decided to Google CSH, finding your post. I wanted to learn more, having grown up hearing from my mother “Y’all are going to send me to Milledgeville!” when we aggravated her (we lived in Augusta, I now live close by in Macon). Thank you for the great article!

  11. David

    Great information. My uncle was actually a patient. He died there in 1927. I am currently doing a family tree. Would it be OK for me to use your article, providing I give credit.

  12. Stuart Davis Smith

    My grandmother, Mamie (Mayme) Christian Robertson, died there in 1954, and probably entered there in the late 1940’s. I would love to have any records of her (dates, diagnoses, treatment, etc.) for my family history. Her children are all dead. What do I need to do to get this if it still exists? Thanks so much!

  13. Jamie

    I can’t believe that most of these comments glorify this institution. I have a great aunt who was sent there in the 60’s for depression and the stories she tells are absolutely horrifying. I was told that many of the female patients were raped by other patients and staff members. If they got pregnant they were held until the baby was delivered and they never saw the baby again. This happened to her and she has always wondered what they did with the babies. I do however appreciate the historical aspects of this article, but would love to see one done on the “unmentionables” that took place there.

  14. Patsy

    I have reason to believe I was hospitalized for severe depression at the age of 9. This would have been 1958/59. is there any possibility I could find these records and would Milledgeville have been the only option for families with limited resources? Did Grady Hospital have a mental ward at that time?

  15. Dawson ray harris

    MY LIFE BEGAN AT CENTRAL STATE HOSPITAL IN THE JONES BLDG. THE HOSPITAL AND GROUNDS BECAME LIKE A SECOND HOME FOR ME. I ENJOYED MOVIES AS A BOY IN THE GYM SOMESTIMES WITH PATIANTS SOMETIMES ON SAT. FOR THE CHILDREN AROUND THE HOSP. MY FIRST JOB WAS CARRING THE ATLANTA JOURNAL NEWSPAPER ALL AROUND AND IN THE HOSP. ONE FAVORITE THING WAS TO SLIDE DOWN THE BANISTER IN THE POWELL BLDG AFTER CLIMBING TO THE TOP FLOOR TO DELIVER MY PAPERS, THE SIDEWALK WAS OUR SKATE RINK OF THE TIMES, THE BALL FIELD BEHIND THE WHITTLE AND CABINESS BLDG. WAS A FAVORITE PLACE TO WATCH THE MILLEDGEVILLE BASEBALL TEAM PLAY. AT TIMES I WOULD CLIMB THE FENCE IN LEFT FIELD AND GO TO MY GRANDFATHERS HOUSE, ONE TIME I GOT HUNG ON THE SHARP CHAIN LINK FENCE IN MY WRIST AND A PATIENT HAD TO LIFT ME UP SO I COULD GET DOWN. THE KITCHENS HAD BLOCK ICE ON THE PORCHES AND I RUINED MY TEETH EATING ICE FROM THEM. I ATE MANY MEALS IN THE CSH KITCHENS SINCE MY DADDY WAS A COOK FOR DIFFERANT BLDGS. IN THOSE DAYS. I WAS ALLOWED TO WATCH A PAITENT BEING IMBALMED, MY NEIGHBOR WAS IN CHARGE AND ALLOWED ME TO WATCH, NOT A GOOD IDEA AT THAT AGE I WAS IN THE DARK RIDING MY BICYCLE BY THE TIME HE FINISHED BOY WAS I SCARED, I CRIED ALL THE WAS UP TO WHERE THE STREET LIGHTS WERE IN FROMT OF THE CENTER BLDG. I SAW THE TRAIN COME IN AND PICK UP PINE BOXES WITH DEAD PATIENTS BEING SHIPPED HOME, I BOUGHT ICE CREAM FROM THE WINDOWS IN THE STORES IN MOST ALL THE BLDGS. WHEN I COULD COME UP WITH A NICKLE. I SAW PATIENTS SO MENTAL THEY HAD TO BE LOCKED IN A ROOM WITH ONLY A MATTRESS, THEY WOULD TEAR THAT UP IN A SHORT TIME. THANK GOD FOR MEDICATION TO END THOSE DAYS. MY FIRST JOB AFTER THE AIR FORCE WAS AN ATTENDANT AT CSH, FOR A FEW DAYS IN THE WHITTLE BLDG, WAS TERRIABLE, THEY SENT ME TO SCHOOL LIKE AN AID AND AFTER THAT I WAS MOVED TO THE JONES BLDG WHERE PATIENTS WERE SENT TO BE CARED FOR FOR SICKNESS AND TO DIE. I TRIED SEVERAL JOBS AFTER THAT AND ALL WAYS WOUND UP BACK AT CSH, I FINALLY LANDED A JOB IN THE T V SHOP REPAIRING ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT FOR PATIENT BENEFIT FUND. STAYED OVER 20 YRS AND STARTED MY OWN BUSINESS. THANK GOD FOR THE HOSPITAL, MY GREAT GREAT GRANDADDY WAS SENT THERE WITH HEART TROUBLE AND DIED THERE. MY WHOLE FAMILY MADE A LIVING THERE AND MOST ARE RETIRED FROM THERE. HOPE THIS IS INFORMATIVE IN SOME WAY . RAY HARRIS

  16. MHW

    This article is extremely thought-provoking and eye-opening. I remember my mother, a nurse who worked at Central State for more than 30 years, talking about the Powell building all the time. The story about the slave grave is appauling and sad. So much to digest from this research you’ve shared…

  17. Angie

    Excellent article. I was a nurse at the hospital 1964 until 1988 then I finished 34 years of service with public health in 2000. It was an honor to minister to, care for and love the people with mental illnesses during the years I was there. Those were the years of great reform (not always for the better) and we had the largest census ever. Medications were beginning to be used, lobotomies had just ceased, electroshock treatments were given every day (early on without medication). Those were the best years of my life and my career. Sooo many great memories.

  18. H Henry

    My Great Grandfather John A. Nicholson died there and buried in grave #110 his son-my Grandfather Hubert L. Nicholson also died there and is buried in Blue Ridge, Ga.

  19. Marian Presswood

    Did this hospital not have to report deaths to the state the same as every other individual or institution did? I know for a fact that Grover Cleveland Coffey died there in 1940 but cannot find a death certificate anywhere.

  20. Janice Ashworth

    As part of my nursing school training, I spent a rotation in 1961 at this hospital. We lived in a building run by trustee patients. My memories are still incredibly vivid of the patients and staff there. Some memories are very painful to recall, some are very poignant, some are funny. The students were used as staff. We had classes taught by nurses and trustee patients as assistants. Thorazine was just being used. I remember the patients lined up at the nurses station to receive the liquid medication. I also remember “shock” day when electrotherapy was performed like an assembly line. We were there for a couple of months, very long months. It was a valuable part of our education. A very special time.

  21. p.o'd

    My great grandfather was railroaded to that place between 1940 and 1959 when he died there. I’m sure there are some good things that happened at this hole but for tens of thousands of poor souls, they would have macabre stories to tell that would make anyone’s blood curdle. What started as a pretty good idea in the early 1800’s turned into a concentration camp where murderers and rapists walked the halls and grounds and I’m not referring to just the patients. The proper way to find out or retrieve records for a past patient is to email the person in charge of this particular dept. and I don’t believe they even reply, even if this is the proper procedure. I called the number listed and I honestly believe the person that answered the phone was asleep just before they answered the phone, and definately did not care what I may have been calling about, much less helping me

  22. Candace Kobbe

    Three of my four grandparents worked at CSH back in the 60s-80s, and my mom was an Operating Room R.N. at the Jones building for over 20 years. I used to come there after school some days and play in and wander the halls of the Jones Building. It was a really neat place. My Grandmother also worked there in timekeeping, and I’d visit her in her office for hours. So many memories there! Also, my sister was married at the Chapel of All Faiths on the grounds in 1996…….was a beautiful old church back then. What a great article about its history! I would really love to see a good documentary about the place that has so many memories for me and my family!

  23. Martha Smith Solomon

    Shame that such a beautiful hospital has to be torn down. I was born in the Jones Building. My father worked at the hospital in the 1940s. At that time medical services were free to employees and their family. I have a great grandmother buried in one of the cemeteries. The people at the hospital helped to locate her. We placed a marker and some of our family puts flowers there on special occasions. I really hate to see the hospital go. Some of the early buildings are beautiful and hold many memories. May God Bless everyone who has passed through this hospital. Most of the people in Georgia has had some connection to Central State Hospital.

    1. Martha, there are no plans as of now to tear the buildings down. But Jones is in bad shape as you can see in the photos.

  24. Joann Corley

    Sister did a semester there in psych rotation for Nursing School….Experience she will never forget! Thanks for the respectful but historical article. Getting lots of response comments to my facebook post. So many never knew the history, but had lots of relatives with connections to CSH, as patients, or worked there or did training there!

  25. Joann Corley

    Why has this not been presented to a respectful documentary film producer? Great historical story of early days of mental illness treatment! Hope someone will one day do a documentary film on this! Thanks for the great article and unknown background, even to those who grew up in Georgia, but didn’t know the history!

    1. Joann, I’ve heard there is a small documentary in the works but there’s probably a larger story to be told. Thanks, we’re glad you enjoyed the article!

  26. my grandmother barbara brown longshore died in the mental hospital in milledgeville georgia sometime in 1976. I would love to learn about her and her records from there. How would i get that information ?

  27. Patterson

    Worked for Central State Hospital from 1962 until 1974. Worked in the Freeman Building for 14 months then worked in the Telephone Office there . Was not crazy about working in the Freeman Bldg but it was ok. Loved the telephone office. Then I transfered to DOAS with State gf Georgia in the office with Tommy Spivey. Worked in that office until I retired in 1996.

  28. Juliet

    I work at CSH in Plant Operations.

    Many of the old buildings require some work, but most are sound enough to be repurposed. The pecan grove is lovely, and the buildings around it have more atmosphere and aesthetics than any modern office park. The railroad station houses a small museum of the hospital’s history.

    Anyone interested in tracing a relative should contact hospital administration. I’ve seen record books (not the contents) that look as old as the hospital, so you should be able to find out what happened. (In the past, people from as far away as New York were admitted.)

  29. jones

    The photo showing the iron stakes is a representation of the many stakes recovered after being tossed aside by groundskeepers. There are no little boxes of remains from Negro patients entombed at that site. The graves from the Negro cemetery that were moved to make way for the Rivers complex were respectfully reburied in order at another burial ground on campus. There are several cemeteries including the current one where patients are still being buried…not to hide abuse…but to respect their privacy which was thought of as more respectful at the time…Census records only gave initials…photos (and videos) that sought to exploit someones’ misfortunate circumstance…were and still are prohibited.

    1. Jones, thanks for your response. The caption below the photo you speak of says the graveyard pictured is a representation. Though since this is featured around the information on Negro burials it may have been unclear. Thanks for the clarification, though.

  30. Dr. Wm. L. Wiley

    Sad. So very, very sad.

  31. hey there, thanks for the great blog entry! an amazing place indeed. my last record was conceptually inspired/informed by this place. find out more here, if anyone’s interested: http://www.marktulk.com/

  32. Clf

    Thank you for this well-written article. I appreciate the way you communicated the history without over-dramatizing. My grandmother was a resident for more than 20 years. In the mid-1980’s CSH was the only facility in the area that would accept Alzheimer’s patients. It is amazing how much changed at the hospital from that time until her death in 1996. When she entered, the atmosphere was very much a “ward” with heavy metal doors, stark visiting areas, and strict rules. It felt like an “institution” when I visited her. However, as time went by and the status of the hospital changed to a nursing home, the atmosphere changed, too. Some of the buildings were updated and remodeled. The last building she was in (I don’t remember the names now) was nice and felt like a good place to be. We were free to visit in her room, and we could help feed her when we were there. The Nursing staff was very caring.
    No one wants to have to send away a family member, but for my family CSH was a godsend when we had no way of giving our loved one the care she needed.

  33. James Barfield

    My mother and father worked at the hospital my mother retired from the hospital and so did several of my ants and cusions If you worked there you had medical care provided so guess what I was bore there in the jones building I also worked there for a while so living in Hardwick I have a lot of memories of the place to bad its just falling down hope the state can come for some good use for it

  34. Charla

    Good article. I was born and raised in Milledgeville. My family and I lived very close to the hospital grounds. I remember my friends and I riding our bikes around the hospital grounds, marveling at the buildings, the acreage, and the activites we saw taking place. Most of my family worked at the hospital and retired from there. I also had a Post traumatic stressful grandmother and 2 mentally retarded aunts admitted there for a while for treatment. I grew up, became a nurse and worked there too. The hospital not only offered job security to many in the community but it also offered intensive treatment and extracurricular activities to its clients. Now that the hospital is closed, I can’t imagine whats happening to all those clients who really need long term treatment and a sense of family that understands their needs.

  35. Lisa Taylor

    still waiting to receive my Great grandfathers medical records. I was called over a month ago. Hoping it will give more insight on his final days and condition.

  36. Rebecca

    Is there any way to access medical records of a deceased family member that was sent there in the 1950- 1960s and also died there?

    1. Rebecca, I don’t know how good their record keeping is. I think a lot of things are in storage. You may wish to contact the organization we link to in the article and see if they can forward you to the proper people.

  37. tiffanyreynolds cox

    i loved reading this . i love anything with history. ive been by the csh many times from living so close by and my great aunt working there . altough she never wanted to talk about her job there . it seem to give her the chills when i would ask about it . thanks again

  38. C. Okar

    I was a patient in the Adolescent Ward in 1975 and then moved to the Yarborough building. Distinctly remember alot of activities in the school, ward and Yarborough building that have remained unspoken. Remember Bart Martindale, the school psychologist paricularly. My crime? Runaway from home.

  39. Cathy Henderson

    I worked in the Yarbrough Building in the early 1970s. Amazing article.

  40. jean delorco

    Thank you for this article. i grew up in milledgeville.. then married and lived a stones throw away from it.. i find the history on it fascinating.. my brother is skitsophrenic and has visited this hospital for treatment for as long as i can remember. that hospital has done a great many things. thank you very much

  41. G Hutchings

    Very informative article. I remember some of the names from stories my father told me when I was a child. He ran the morgue at CSH for 16 years before it was bidded out to private funeral homes in the early 80’s.

  42. Deborah Willimas

    Growing up in Milledgeville I remember most all of the budings and pictures in your article. I roamed the grounds several times. We even playing high school basketball games in the gym. Now that I grown and have a famy of my own I have taken them to visit the grounds and told them many stories! Very interesting then and still is. I remember the gift shop the patients made things for and even have a wedding gift from there that was given to me!
    Thanks for the wonderful read!

  43. Jan Smith Davis

    I am floored at the numbers listed here! So many!!! And a railroad station on-site?!!! I do not really understand how people went unaccounted for, though. If they were placed as a result of a court order or diagnosis, were there not records for each admission?

  44. Tasha Boyt

    I loved reading this. My Grandmother was sent there for a short time probably 25 years ago. I just remember the buildings being overwhelming! I didn’t know you could tour the buildings. Very neat to know.

  45. Diane Bouton

    Thank You for sharing. My family roots are deeply entwined in the history of Central State Hospital. My grandmother worked in the Jones Hospital, my mother grew up on the outskirts of CSH in the Hardwick Community. My mother and father met at a dance at Central State Hospital. My father was a patient at CSH in 1964 and again in 1971. My father should have never been released from the hospital, my parents should have never met or allowed to marry. I have so many questions but no one wants to talk about the DEEP DARK SECRETS OF CENTRAL STATE HOSPITAL

  46. Louise Paulk

    My mother was a nurse here in the Arnold building. I can remember some of the photos and my dad drove the white transportation buses on the grounds and transported patients later back and to to Thomasville, Ga. I can relate to this story very well, enjoyed reading about what you all had to say…Thanks

  47. Yes, this is a terrific and informative article! Love the pictures too.

  48. Curtrice

    Thank you for the very informative article. Some of the names mentioned in it were kind of familiar to me because both of my parents were employed by CSH for most of their “working lives.” My father worked in at least two or three buildings – my mother, in two, also. I can recall only their last jobs…my father was an accountant there in the Lawrence building, and, my mother was an HST the Allen Building. Both are deceased, now, but they told me and my siblings many true stories about CSH. I also have a lot of memories about the buildings and the cafeteria as my father would sometimes bring food home for our supper. I also went on a school field trip in the fourth or fifth grade, back in 1972 or 1973. I forget the exact year, but, remember the trip “as if it was yesterday.” Thank you again for the article!