The Resource Records of Eastern State Hospital

Records of Eastern State Hospital

Records of Eastern State Hospital, 1770-2009
Records of Eastern State Hospital
Inclusive dates
Contains volumes and paper records dating from 1770 to 2009. The earliest material in the collection is a Court of Directors minute book, 1770-1801, though the bulk of the collection dates from the mid-nineteenth century through the twentieth century. A few sporadic records from 2000-2009 exist as well. Included in the Eastern State records are admission registers, correspondence and subject files, architectural drawings and construction files, photographs, personnel records, newsletters, news clippings, scrapbooks, publications and reports, meeting minutes, patient treatment, and financial records. Also found in this collection are many files created and maintained by Dr. John Minson Galt, II that include his essays on mental health and other topics. The records as a whole document the complex administrative and operational aspects of the hospital, and to a lesser extent, patient life at Eastern State
Agency history record describes the history and functions of Eastern State Hospital. (Search author as Eastern State Hospital).
Member of
  • Accessioned
  • Accessioned
  • Described
  • Described
  • Accessioned
  • Described
  • Accessioned
  • Described
Additional physical form
Most of the records comprising Series IV., Subseries D. Correspondence, Subject Files and Ledgers (Superintendent) can also be found on microfilm (Miscellaneous reels 4083-4085). Please note that the original records have been reboxed since microfilming and the folder numbers no longer correspond to those on the film.
Biographical or historical data
  • "The Publick Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds" at Williamsburg was first proposed by Royal Governor Francis Fauquier in 1766. A committee was authorized to prepare a bill to provide for the founding of the hospital, which it did in 1769. In April 1770, architect Robert Smith was chosen to design the new hospital and an act formally establishing the hospital was passed by the General Assembly in June 1770. Construction of the hospital building in the center of Williamsburg took several years. The first patients were admitted in October 1773. The first hospital employee appointed was the keeper, who was directed to call the visiting physician as needed because there was no resident doctor on staff. The first visiting physician at the hospital was Dr. John De Sequeyra.
  • The Galt family of Williamsburg worked closely with the hospital for much of the first 100 years of its existence. The first keeper of the hospital was James Galt who was succeeded by William T. Galt in 1800. Dickie Galt also served as keeper during the 1830s. In 1841 Dr. John Minson Galt, II, was appointed the first hospital superintendent by an act of the General Assembly. Additionally, Dr. Galt's grandfather, Dr. John Minson Galt, and also his father, Dr. Alexander D. Galt both served as visiting physicians prior to the establishment of the superintendent position. Dr. Galt served as superintendent from 1841 until 1862 when the hospital was overtaken by Union forces during the Civil War. Dr. Galt died shortly after being forced to leave the hospital grounds.
  • Dr. John M. Galt, II introduced the concept of "moral management" to the Eastern Lunatic Asylum. Moral management (or "moral therapy") suggested that the roots of insanity might be emotional. Providing kindness, an aesthetically pleasing and comfortable atmosphere, exercise, and organized social activity was believed to work better for treating mental diseases than other methods such as restraints and bleedings. Dr. Galt also went against conventional beliefs when he applied for and received legislative consent to accept mentally ill slaves as patients to the hospital in 1846. However, by 1869, racial segregation was reestablished with the creation of Central Lunatic Asylum (later Central State Hospital) now located near Petersburg, Virginia.
  • By the 1930s the population of the hospital had outgrown its cramped quarters in downtown Williamsburg. With no room to expand, the hospital began construction on what would be called the Dunbar Extension. The land was formally known as the Dunbar Plantation and was located about three miles west of the city. Four buildings were erected in 1936, but construction plans were halted when the United States became involved in World War Two. Construction resumed in 1947 and continued for the better part of the next two decades. For many years patients were split between the two sites, but by the late 1970s all patients were housed at Dunbar. Many of the original downtown hospital buildings were demolished in the 1960s, though a recreation of the first Public Hospital building, completed in 1985, can be found on the grounds of Colonial Williamsburg.
  • Eastern State Hospital experienced various name changes over the years. Originally known as the Public Hospital, it also became known as Eastern Lunatic State Hospital and Eastern Lunatic Asylum. Through an act of the General Asssemby in 1894, the current name of Eastern State Hospital was established.
Cataloging source
Citation source
Records of Eastern State Hospital
Part of Record Group 38 (Dept. of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services)
  • The Library of Virginia
Cumulative index finding aids
  • 40.75
  • 201 volumes.
  • 42 oversized folders.
Governing access note
  • The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia, 2.2-3705.5) and the Virginia Health Records Privacy Act (Code of Virginia, 32.1-172.1:03) establish guidelines for restricting access to medical and other confidential forms of information in order to protect personal privacy. Protected health information (PHI) as defined under the Privacy Regulations issued under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) includes, but is not limited to, personally identifiable information such as names, addresses, and social security numbers. The Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia, 42.1-78) includes a provision for closing all privacy protected information for 75 years from the date of creation. In accordance with this legislation, the Library of Virginia can and will restrict, in whole or in part, access to any privacy protected medical information or any other confidential information contained in these records
  • When possible, privacy protected information has been sealed or redacted (or will be upon request of material), and may be available for research in its altered form. When redaction is deemed implausible by library staff due to the type, size, or condition of the records, the records will be completely closed. Absolutely restricted material may include but is not limited to, patient lists, patient admission registers, treatment registers, and personnel files less than 75 years of age. Please inquire about the restriction status of individual boxes and volumes. All records more than 75 years old are open for research
  • A patron wishing to access his or her own records will be accommodated, regardless of the age of the record, as long as proof of identity is provided. Patrons searching for their own records must provide a drivers license or government-issued identification card featuring a photograph. This identification card will be photocopied and attached to the research agreement
  • Access to architectural and engineering plans and drawings of current governmental buildings requires written authorization from the appropriate authority within the agency occupying the facility. Please contact Archives Research Services staff for further information
Immediate source of acquisition
  • Davis, Mrs. Henry E.
  • Pointer, Wyolene - Eastern State Hospital,
  • Porter, Michelle - Health Information Management Dept., Eastern State Hospital,
  • Porter, Michelle - Health Information Management Dept., Eastern State Hospital,
Organization method
Organized into the following series: Series I. Admission and Statistical Registers, 1808-1996. Series II. Buildings and Grounds Records, 1829-1996. Series III. Commitment Registers, 1911-1946. Series IV. Correspondence and Subject Files, 1791-1997. Series V. Financial Registers, 1882-1974. Series VI. History Files, 1942-1999. Series VII. Inventory and Supply Registers, 1876-1976. Series VIII. Minutes, 1770-1989. Series IX. News Clippings and Summaries, 1964-2008. Series X. Newsletters, 1948-2008. Series XI. Papers, Speeches and Lectures, 1949-1985. Series XII. Patient and Medical Treatment Records, 1841-2009. Series XIII. Personnel Records, 1907-1988. Series XIV. Photographs, 1931-2007. Series XV. Publications, 1844-2006. Series XVI. Reports, 1842-1994. Series XVII. Rules, Regulations and Procedures, 1841-1979. Series XVIII. Scrapbooks, 1946-1991. Series XIX. Theses, Dissertations and Projects, 1949-2003.
Terms governing use
There are no use restrictions.
Type of unit
cu. ft. (101 boxes).

Library Locations

    • Library of VirginiaBorrow it
      800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, US
      37.5415632 -77.4360805
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