Embreeville State Hospital
This facility started out as the Chester County Almshouse in 1798, and was intended to care for the insane, poor, and neglected of the county. The commonwealth would later want counties to construct independent facilities that could provide care for the indigent insane and, beginning in 1898, work began on land where the “new” poorhouse would be located. The facility developed into a working community where able-bodied people earned their keep by performing a variety of tasks from farming to sewing, laundry and related chores. This new site would accommodate the growing need of the destitute in the region. Not far from the original poorhouse was a Potter’s Field, where less fortunate people without a family or means of support were buried. By 1900, patients from Norristown State Hospital were relocated to the new Embreeville asylum, which was functioning as a semi-autonmous hospital. Over time, additional modern buildings were constructed to house a growing mentally ill population. It was officially acquired by the state from Chester County in 1914.
As a State Hospital
On September 29, 1938 the commonwealth took total control of the facility as part of their new state-wide legislation, known as the “Full State Care Act”. The legislature (Act #53) assumed responsibility for eight of the thirteen existing county public mental hospitals, the other five hospitals were closed. This same piece of legislation would transform sites like Philadelphia City Farms into Philadelphia State Hospital. It was designated that Embreeville would serve Lancaster and Chester County in Pennsylvania as part of their catchment area. Embreeville was cited by the American Psychiatric Association as one of three “model hospitals” in the country. Dr. Arthur Hecker, the hospital superintendent, upon hearing this honor stated “We’re naturally quite proud to be so honored by our peers… but we’re even more pleased about a fact that helped make it possible. We have 100 percent turnover of beds each year.”
In 1971, a juvenile detention center was place within a few buildings at the hospital site, before finally moving on to better physical accommodations in Danville in 1992. By 1979, the total statewide state hospital census was reduced to 10,573 patients, and resulted in the closure of several smaller state hospitals. Embreeville was the second state facility in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to close its doors, in 1980, following that of Hollidaysburg State Hospital.