Athens Lunatic Asylum – Athens, Ohio - Atlas Obscura

Athens Lunatic Asylum

An abandoned asylum incorporated into a college campus. 

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Athens Lunatic Asylum opened in 1874 on 141 acres and it was designed for 500 patients. By the 1950s it had expanded to a facility with 78 buildings on 1,000 acres. During its active years tens of thousands of patients were treated with around 1,800 buried in cemetaries on the ground.

At one time it was the largest employer in the state of Ohio. However, it was the patients who worked the grounds. That is, until catatonic drugs became common. Archives on the asylum show that hydrotherapy, electroshock therapy, lobotomies, and psychotropic drugs were all used as treatments.

The asylum closed in 1993, and the property was bought by Ohio University. Today as renovations continue the old asylum has several uses, such as a daycare, art museum,art studios, surplus store, Biotech labs, OU Police Department, and education related uses. 

The Ridges is also known for its use of the kirkbride plan a unique and distinct asylum plan that used a batwing design and was built on the idea of moral treatment. Kirkbrides featured lots of natural light and airflow. Today the Ridges may be considered the largest and most complete example of a kirkbride still standing.

Know Before You Go

The Art Museum is open to anyone during operating times, but other than that most of the asylum is off limits to visitors. Feel free to walk the expansive grounds at your leisure!