Rochester State Hospital, 2110 East Center Street, Rochester, Minnesota

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Rochester State Hospital

Administrative building
Rochester, Minnesota
Olmsted County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year Established: 1877
Year Ended: 1982
Historic Function: State Hospital
Notes: The main building was built according to the layout proposed for insane asylyums by Dr. Thomas Kirkbride

Rochester Olmsted County

The original intent of Minnesota legislatures was to build the second Minnesota hospital for the insane, or more specifically, the Inebriate Asylum in Rochester. The land in Rochester was purchased in 1876 and construction of a building begun in 1877, but liquor dealers’ strong opposition to the ten dollar a year tax inhibited funding for completion. In 1878 the legislature repealed the tax and abolished the inebriate asylum. In its place the legislature established the Second Minnesota Hospital for the Insane and transferred the lands, buildings, and funds of the asylum to the hospital. An inebriate treatment department was created within the hospital. The hospital, which was put under the control of the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota Hospital for the Insane at St. Peter (Laws 1878 c91), opened on January 1, 1879, with patients transferred from St. Peter. The legislature made appropriations for construction throughout the 1880s, and by 1890 there were two male wards, a kitchen, an administration building, a laundry building, an engine house, and a boiler house. In 1883 the hospital’s name was changed to Rochester State Hospital and its relationship with the board of trustees was clarified. Board members were to inspect the hospital periodically, collect statistics, and oversee its financial management. In 1897 the inebriate treatment department was abolished and responsibility for inebriate care was transferred to the counties (Laws 1897 c235 and c260). Treatment of mental diseases at the hospital before the 1920s consisted mainly of keeping patients occupied with work and recreation, and restraining violent patients. Many patients worked on the hospital’s 500-acre farm. Plays, concerts, and dances were put on for recreational purposes. In the late 1940s insulin and electroshock treatments were common, and in the 1950s lobotomies were used on some patients. Throughout the hospital’s history the use of drugs became more extensive. The hospital served as a surgical center for many of the other state institutions, as well as for Rochester State Hospital. The Mayo Clinic provided doctors free of charge, and the hospital absorbed the cost of supplies. A major reconstruction program, begun in 1948, included the construction of two geriatric buildings, a powerhouse, and eleven staff houses. From 100 patients in 1879 the hospital grew to over 1,000 patients by 1900, and there were over 1,700 patients in 1955. The hospital was closed in June, 1982, as a cost-saving measure by the legislature. Patients were transferred to other institutions, and the land and buildings to Olmsted County.

The receiving war and West Home were both constructed in 1912 in the Tudor Revival style by architect Clarence H. Johnston. Staff residences built in 1938 were limestone and clapboard Colonial Revival style, constructed by W.P.A. workers.


Memories and stories

Photo Gallery

Related Links


  • Minnesota Historical Society Agency History Record
  • Dr. Thomas Kirkbride
  • The Public Buildings of the State of Minnesota : an Architectural Heritage Patricia Murphy (for the State Historic Preservation Office of the Minnesota Historical Society)
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