Established in 1909, the Northern State Hospital for the Mentally Ill was a sprawling and remarkably self-sufficient facility with a number of production facilities including a 700-acre farm.
Alongside a lumber mill and quarrying operation, the farm enabled the hospital to support itself. The Northern State Hospital’s farm not only allowed the facility to be self-sufficient, but was even productive enough to help feed other hospitals in the state. The farm had every animal one would expect to see from cows to chickens, and also canning buildings to preserve their stores. In addition to providing food and crops for the facility, the farm also gave the patients a place where they could work and socialize. At its height, the dairy farm was the largest of its kind west of the Mississippi.
After the hospital closed in 1973, the farm and its grounds were given to the county to turn into a recreation area. While the hospital buildings are still in use, the farm grounds and their remaining buildings are a public park where visitors can explore the empty barns and milking houses. If decaying buildings aren’t exciting enough, the park also offers Frisbee golf.
Know Before You Go
From Interstate 5, take Exit 230 (Burlington/Anacortes, State Route 20). Follow State Route 20 east to Sedro Woolley. Just east of the town of Sedro Woolley, turn left on Helmick Road. A parking lot is on the left, less than a mile down the road. The signs for the park can be hard to spot so using a GPS is a good plan. However, once you do arrive you will wish that you had packed a lunch and could stay a little longer.