Daily Oregon Statesman January 1, 1907
WHERE HUNDREDS OF UNFORTUNATE PEOPLE ARE CARED FOR BY THE STATE
Numerous Substantial Buildings Located on a Sightly Place in the Eastern Portion of Oregon's Capital City--A Large Institution--Many Inmates.
Just within the eastern borders of the city of Salem lies a group of brick buildings that loom up on an eminence there in picturesque grandeur, and the stranger is at once attracted by their comeliness and asks why and for what they are there.
Beautiful for situation is the Oregon State Insane Asylum with its view of the city and surrounding country, its massive yet graceful brick buildings set in grounds that are kept attractive at all seasons of year, its gardens laid out in a splendid manned and its numerous detached buildings in harmony with the main structure.
When the state of Oregon chose the site, it was a wise choice. Close enough to the city to bring its army of employees within touch of social attractions of the city, yet far enough removed (at present at least) to give perfect freedom from annoyance to the inmates who are able to take exercise in the open air, it lies high enough above the fogs of the lower ground to escape them and low enough to give easy access by foot, team, or electric railway to the grounds.
The asylum is a place that has many visitors, both relatives of those confined within its walls and those who are interested in visiting the state institution during a visit to Salem. Visitors are admitted each day from 10 to 12 in the morning and from 2 to 4 in the afternoon, excepting on Saturdays and Sundays. On entering the reception hallway, a guide is ready to make the rounds of the wards, explaining to the visitor the different classes of patients, their manner of segregation, and the methods the attendants use in handling them. A trip through the wards requires almost an hour, if any care at all is taken to study the institution, and the most rapid walking will hardly accomplish the task in less than thirty minutes, so extensive are the hallways and corridors. A visitor is generally shown first through the male wards, and then through the female wards, taking in turn the violent, the imbecile, the milder cases, and the children, and then is taken through the various shops, the kitchen, laundry, etc. Throughout them all the visitor will notice the great care that the employees exercise over the patients in their charge, amusing them when necessary, helping them if need be, and restraining them wisely when they become excited.
What struck the writer most forcibly during the visit was the affection which seemed to exist in the patient for the attendant, and in no place was there found any harshness or undue severity. The patients were cleanly, and while they were not clothed in fine material, were all comfortable and so far as their condition would allow were in good spirits.
It is one of the most difficult things in the world for a person in possession of all his faculties to minister day after day to the mind diseased without many things that annoy, much that will try the patience, and much that would call for severity. And yet, Dr. Calbreath in his choice of assistants has gathered together a body of employees whose one aim seems to be the care of those over whom they exercise restraint, and whose most cheerful devotion to duty is to be commended.
The buildings are arranged with special idea of adaptability to the purpose for which they are used. Each of the wards is connected with a sun parlor, where on winter days when the inmates cannot go out of doors, they can gather for a time and enjoy the brightness of the open without being subject to the atmospheric conditions existing outside the walls of the building. The bedrooms of the patients open off the corridors, as do those of the attendants and various subordinate officers. This enables the attendants to be in close touch with their patients both day and night, and is a wise precaution against possible trouble between patients should one become suddenly violent or manage to escape from his room in the night. Some of the rooms are provided with two beds, some with three, care being taken that only the milder patients are allowed room mates. The rooms are heated by steam, the radiators being so arranged that one will heat two rooms. In the more violent wards, the radiators are protected by a heavy iron netting to prevent the patients from injuring themselves. The night watchmen have a full view of each bedroom from the corridors without the necessity of opening the doors.
The floors of the building are of hard wood, polished to a high degree by years of constant oiling and cleaning which is carried on day after day to keep the patients employed. In female wards strips of matting or carpet run down the center of the corridors, this concession being made to the finer tastes of the female patients.
To describe the Oregon State Insane Asylum so as to convey a clear conception of its magnitude is a difficult thing to do. But when one states that it requires 182 employees to handle the patients; that its furnaces, ranges and bake ovens consume 600 cords of wood each month; its patients eat 1,000 loaves of bread each day; and that it shelters nearly 2,000 persons; then it will convey a slight conception to the reader of the extensive business the care of the state insane involves, and the ability required in its superintendent and his assistants to have everything run smoothly , with economy to the taxpayer, and with the best results to the patients under treatment.
In feeding the patients, each ward is given a separate dining room, to which the food is brought from the general kitchen. The inmates of the ward are watched carefully while at meals and the food served is both nourishing and wholesome, and is well cooked. Much credit is due the cooks and bakers for the efficient way in which they prepare the supplies for their many borders, and to the excellent system by which the entire number of inmates is fed in a very short time.
The grounds of the asylum are kept in shape by the inmates, it being a pleasure for the more robust of them to do light garden work, and there are always plenty for the work. The shortage of labor so much felt everywhere else is not appreciated here. The difficulty is to find the work that will keep the minds of the patients able to work from brooding.
In addition to the buildings at Salem, the asylum has a farm about six miles southeast of the city where a number of inmates are kept under the cottage system, and where the vegetables used in the asylum are largely raised. This farm is under the management of an overseer and a physician is stationed there.
It is always interesting to know those who are in charge of the different departments in the state's works, and we include in this article a complete list of those connected with the asylum on December 1, the last date for which the list was available when this article was written: (To see the list of employees)