About this site.

Site currently undergoing a major expansion of photographs and a reorganization of pages and navigation. Enjoy yourself, but come back again in a few weeks for more.

This website is a collection of photographs of the main campus of The Michigan Asylum for the Insane, located in Kalamazoo, opened in 1859. 

The facility was renamed the “Kalamazoo State Hospital” in 1911; the “Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital” in 1978; and the “Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital” in 1995.

(This site does not address the farm complex on Asylum Lake or the outlying building further north, across town.)

The photographs (and maps and satellite images) posted here document the buildings and grounds of a major U.S. asylum that never closed and never fell into ruin, but instead steadily shrank. 

One result of this slow erasure is that the Michigan Asylum for the Insane in Kalamazoo is poorly documented. I grew up a block away from the place and knew it well. This site is my attempt to gather up the pieces and put them together again.

Navigating the Grounds

I've tried several approaches to assist in a visualization of the asylum in its parts and as a whole.

Labeled aerial views provide the easiest way to gain a three dimensional sense of the place.

A 1967 map and a 2012 satellite image are the easiest way to grasp the overall layout. Major demolitions and surviving buildings are detailed on the same page.

To swoop a little closer, the grounds are divided into four sections, each represented by an old aerial detail, a recent satellite detail, and a map detail. These pages also include direct links to photos of each building from that area.

Note that most photographs will click-to-enlarge.

Individual building pages:

Original Building (Female Department) (1859-1969)

Male Department (1872-1975)

Gate House (1879-present)

Water Tower (1896-present)

Fletcher Hospital (1897-1988)

Edwards Hospital (1905-1988)

Noble Lodge (1916-2013)

Burns Cottage (1900-1988)

Clinical Pathology (1912-2000)

Potter Cottage (1898-1975)

Monroe Cottage (1902-1976)

Industrial Building (1919-2005)

Van Deusen Hospital (1908-1998)

Herman Ostrander Building (1927-1998)

Chapels (1891-1950, 1965-present)

Administration & Quadrangle (1942 to 1952 – present)

Mary Muff Tubercular Hospital (1940-present)

Linda Richards Nursing Hospital (1931-present)

Laundries (1916-1948-present) 

The Safety Department (? - c. 1939)

Closer: Northern End

1959, looking southwest from the intersection of Oakland Drive and Oliver Street: There were six major structures north of the Female Department, which is in the upper left corner of this photograph. Immediately next to the Female Department is Monroe Cottage. At 10 o'clock is Potter Cottage. At the center is Van Deusen Hospital. Below that is the H-shaped Linda Richards Nursing Hospital (still standing). Toward the lower right corner, at the intersection of Oakland and Oliver, is Montague House (still standing). On the upper right side is the Herman Ostrander Building. (Courtesy Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections)


1950s vertical aerial view: At bottom, Oakland Drive. At center, Van Deusen Hospital. Clockwise from upper left: Monroe Cottage, the greenhouse, Herman Ostrander Building, the H-shaped Linda Richards Hospital, and Potter Cottage left of center. The gatehouse cottage (still standing) is in the lower left corner.


2012 satellite view, looking northwest, turned to match the orientation of the two photos above. To compare with other photographs, use the H-shaped Linda Richards Nursing Hospital. I place Monroe cottage in the area directly to right of the WMU College of Health and Human Services building, partially visible on the left (in the green patch/oval driveway area). Long story short, it's all parking lots and roads now.


1957: The back of the north end, looking northeast, reversing the view of the 1959 photo above. The vantage point is approximately over Stadium Drive, south of Oliver Street. Clockwise from center top: Linda Richards Nursing Hospital, Van Deusen Hospital, the roof of Potter Cottage, Monroe Cottage, the greenhouse, Herman Ostrander Building. (Courtesy Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections)


1984: The back of the north end, looking east. This photo shows the relationship of the three largest buildings to the intersection of Stadium Drive and Oliver Street. In the zoomed photo, the Herman Ostrander Building is almost completely hidden by trees halfway up the left side, with half of Linda Richards Nursing Hospital directly above it. The red brick and white back of Van Deusen Hospital is at the left. (Courtesy Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections)


Circa 1930 aerial view looking north, showing the three largest buildings on the north end.

Original Building (Female Department) (1859-1968)

The central two thirds of the front of the building, from "The Siggins Album," circa 1900. End to end, the front of the building spanned 700 feet.  (Courtesy of the Local History Room of The Kalamazoo Public Library.)


The same view today. The building is the Western Michigan University College of Health and Human Services. 


Looking northeast from the water tower, toward downtown Kalamazoo. The asylum was located on a (then) moderately remote hilltop. From "The Siggins Album," circa 1900. (Courtesy of the Local History Room of The Kalamazoo Public Library.)


Artist's conception.

Building plan. The Female Department and Male Department buildings were examples of the Kirkbride Plan.

Construction began in 1854, and the structure was built in stages until totally complete in September of 1869. Patients were admitted to the completed portions beginning in 1859. Work was slowed by multiple factors: A State legislature that pieced out funding a year at a time; an arsonist's fire that significantly damaged the central section while under construction; and the Civil War.

The floor plan above (and its handwritten notes) suggest that it represents a moment in the middle of the 15 year construction process. The north section (righthand) was built after the south section – but it was built according to plan. On the other hand, I can find no evidence that the infirmary section on the south end (in the back, labelled "not completed" on the floor plan above) was ever built. It does not appear in any photographs.


Footprint photographed in 1950. The 3-section zig-zag building in the upper left still stands. At the upper right is the Service Building and Central Kitchen. The one asymmetrical feature is the infirmary section at the end of the first transverse section on the north end (photo right). (Courtesy Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections)


Circa-1930 aerial view.

The photographs below are sequenced to take you on a trip around the building. We start at the main entrance, briefly examine the north end of the front, then head south, circling the building until we've looked at the south, west (back), and north sides of the building.

In 1933 the large cupolas were removed because they were deemed a fire hazard. The front entrance section of the building was also revised, perhaps at the same time. Both versions below.

The original front.


Three views of the revised front.


The entrance, seen from the north.


The north end of the front, looking south. The leftmost section in the photo is the main entrance again. The large cupolas have been removed by this time. 


Back to the entrance, looking south.


A view of the south end of the front of the building. The bit of roofline to the right of the scalloped cupola is the main entrance section again.


The corner of the south end in 1939, looking back up the front of the building, showing the tiering of the sections. The center of this photograph is the same area depicted in the previous photograph.

The rightmost section in the photograph is the main entrance. At the left, we turn the corner from the front (east) side to the south end. (Courtesy Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections)


The same corner of the south end circa 1900 (pre-balconies, large cupolas still in place), now turned to see the entire south end of the building stretching toward the rear. (From "The Siggins Album," courtesy of the Local History Room of The Kalamazoo Public Library.)


The rear-most corner of the south end as it turns to the back (west side) of the building in 1939.  (Courtesy Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections)


The south end circa 1900, looking north from the water tower, chapel in lower right. Compare the back corner (left) to the previous 1939 photo of the same corner. An entire floor appears to have been added.  (From "Images of America: Kalamazoo, Michigan" (Arcadia Pub., 2002))


The south end, looking north from the water tower, power plant in lower left. Also a detail of the back section. (From "The Siggins Album," courtesy of the Local History Room of The Kalamazoo Public Library.)


The north side of the back of the building, 1957. (Courtesy Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections)


A somewhat earlier view of the north side of the back of building. In this one, the trees are bare, so the house-like end of the cross-section is visible. This was an infirmary for critical cases, set apart from the rest of the building, so that its operations and patients would not disturb or require traffic through the rest of the building. (Courtesy Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections)


And finally, coming full circle: The north side of the building and the north end of the front of the building in 1959. This is an almost exact reversal of the perspective in the previous photograph. (Courtesy Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections)


Postcard gallery.

Here is a comparison of the footprints of the Female Department (1950s) and WMU's College of Health and Human Services building (2012). To orient yourself: In both photos, the same neighboring buildings are visible on the left edge and in the top left corner (the three section, zig-zag building). Also look for Oakland Drive at the bottom and the gate house (cottage) in the lower right corner of each.

Male Department (1872-1975)

Looking west from beyond the baseball field on the other side of Oakland Drive, after 1896. 


Street view, circa 1900. (Courtesy Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections)

The building's footprint, 1955. (Courtesy Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections)


The center and entrance to the building.

The front, looking south.


The south section of the front, looking north, with the cupolas of The Female Department visible at center right.


The south corner of the front. Refer to the building footprint photo, above, to see the relationship of the house-like structure on the left to the building as a whole.


The same corner circa 1975, not long before the building was torn down. (From the Clarence Schrier Collection, courtesy Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections)


The 1975 view (above) in 2014.


Additional early views of the south corner of the front.


The  north end and back of the building, looking southeast from the water tower, with Fletcher Hospital visible on far end. From "The Siggins Album," circa 1900. (Courtesy of the Local History Room of The Kalamazoo Public Library.)


A zoom of the previous photo, showing the rear sections of the structure.


A view of the same area circa 1975, taken from the roof of the Quadrangle Building. (From the Clarence Schrier Collection, courtesy Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections)


Viewing the back of the building from the other direction (looking north). The photograph was taken from a window at the end of the south wing of the building. (From "The Siggins Album," circa 1900. (Courtesy of the Local History Room of The Kalamazoo Public Library.)


2014: Approximately the same vantage point (though ground level) as the previous photograph. 


Another angle on the same general view as the previous photographs. We have backed up to be fully south of the building and turned northeast to look across the top. The corner of Fletcher Hospital is visible on the far right.  (From "Picturesque Kalamazoo," E.E. Labadie; printed by Kalamazoo Publishing Company, 1909)


The center of the rear of the building. Part of Burns is in the right foreground.


Aerial view, circa 1930.