The Resource Records of Southwestern State Hospital

Records of Southwestern State Hospital

Records of Southwestern State Hospital, 1887-1948
Records of Southwestern State Hospital
Inclusive dates
Contains a variety of records that document many of the day-to-day operations of Southwestern State Hospital. The records date from the year the hospital opened (1887) and include architectural drawings, financial records, supply and inventory ledgers, letter books, Executive Committee and Special Board of Directors' meeting minutes, and patient case books. The case books provide the most information on patient life at the hospital and also document mental health treatment during the late 1800s and early 1900s
Agency history record describes the history and functions of the Southwestern State Hospital. (Search author as Southwestern State Hospital).
Member of
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Biographical or historical data
  • In March 1884 the Virginia General Assembly appointed a board of commissioners to select a site for a new lunatic asylum for white citizens to be built west of New River. The board selected a 208-acre site in Smyth County and in August 1884 the General Assembly gave the board the power to purchase the land for thirty thousand dollars and granted the county the right to issue bonds as well. In November 1884 the General Assembly formally established the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum, near Marion, Virginia. Dr. Harvey Black, J. Hoge Tyler, Thomas J. Boyd, D.D. Hull, Dr. John S. Apperson, N.L. Look and F.B. Hurt were appointed to the building committee which was tasked with overseeing the construction of the hospital.
  • Dr. Harvey Black became the first superintendent of Southwestern Lunatic Asylum when it opened in May 1887. Dr. Robert J. Preston and Dr. John S. Apperson served as assistant physicians, and Mr. C.W. White was appointed as steward to oversee the day-to-day business operations of the hospital. The patient population grew steadily and over time several buildings were added to the hospital's campus including a tuberculosis treatment building, a building for the criminally insane, the Davis Clinic, and the Harmon Building. For much of its early history, the hospital was mostly self-sufficient through the utilization of its own farm for meat, milk, and vegetables. Other early hospital superintendents include Dr. Robert J. Preston (1888-1906), Dr. Daniel Trigg (1906-1908), Dr. J.C. King (1908-1915), Dr. E.H. Henderson (1915-1927), and Dr. George A. Wright (1927-1937).
  • One of the hospital's most influential superintendents, Dr. Joseph R. Blalock, served from 1938 to 1971 and was the force behind many changes in treatment including the use of psycho-surgery, drug therapy, and vocational rehabilitation. By the mid-1970s, deinstitutionalization had greatly diminished the patient population as mental health treatment became more community-focused. In 1981, the Virginia Department of Corrections took over the care and treatment of adjudicated criminally insane patients at the hospital. This institution is adjacent to the hospital and is known as the Marion Correctional Treatment Center. In 1986, the General Assembly passed legislation providing for the demolition and reconstruction of much of Southwestern State Hospital. The new Bagley Building was constructed to house 177 patients in an integrated care design with living and treatment areas in one place. All adult patients were moved to the new complex in March 1990.
  • The hospital has gone through two name changes in its history. In 1894 the General Assembly passed legislation changing the name from Southwestern Lunatic Asylum to Southwestern State Hospital. In 1988, the name was changed to Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institute.
Cataloging source
Citation source
Records of Southwestern State Hospital
Part of Record Group 38 (Virginia Dept. of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services)
  • The Library of Virginia
Cumulative index finding aids
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
  • The records of Southwestern State Hospital have been reviewed and processed, and all attempts have been made to identify, restrict (in whole or in part, depending on the nature of the record) and/or mark for redaction any privacy protected medical, personnel, and other confidential information restricted by law contained therein. When possible, the 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. Restricted material includes any record containing patient names or identifying information that is 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
Immediate source of acquisition
Southwestern State Hospital
Organization method
Organized into the following series: Series I. Administrative Records, 1887-194; Series II. Architectural Drawings and Site Plans, undated; Series III. Finance and Supply Records, 1887-1948; Series IV. Letter Books and Correspondence Records, 1901-1915; Series V. Meeting Minutes, 1887-1936; Series VI. Patient Records, 1887-1918.
Terms governing use
There are no use restrictions.
Type of unit

Library Locations

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