Dixmont State Hospital, formally known as Western Pennsylvania Asylum for the Insane, was founded in 1850 and is one of Pennsylvania’s oldest state hospitals. Dixmont was named in honor of Dorothea Dix, a social reformist who rallied for better treatment for the mentally ill. In 1862 patients began to receive the necessary treatment they needed. Dix had her hand in many of the construction decisions at Dixmont including the location of the asylum and the adoption of the Kirkbride Plan. The hospital operated for 122 years until it closed in 1984.


I recently had a chance to visit Dixmont State Hospital. It’s located half way up a hill overlooking the Ohio River. With many years of neglect, vandalism, and deterioration, the hospital is just a shell of its former self. However, fire has severely damaged the administration part of the Kirkbride but the wings are still affixed. I must say this was one of my most nerve racking adventures I have ever been on due to the lack of windows, the weather conditions and the constant rhythmic slamming of doors. Otherwise, I had a blast. It appeared I had arrived there just in time because plans of demolition were beginning to take place. This institution that once stood before me will soon be lost forever as Wal-Mart feels the need to destroy a piece of history to make room for the newest super store.


Farewell Visit



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