Cherokee State Hospital

In 1894 the Iowa legislature selected Cherokee as the location for a new asylum in the north-west corner of the state. With its opening in 1902, Cherokee State Hospital became Iowa's fourth asylum, the others being in Clarinda, Independence and Mt. Pleasant. Henry F. Liebbe of Des Moines was the architect.

An early description of the hospital provides a good sense of the size and complexity of these structures by listing items making up the Cherokee Kirkbride: "1810 windows, 1030 doors, 46 outside doors, 550 rooms, 200 closets, 23 dining rooms, 30 bath rooms, 57 toilet rooms... 30,000 square feet of tile... 12 acres of floor surface... 93,000 yards of plastering..." As with most Kirkbrides, the building has undergone some changes over the years. The most striking exterior changes include the removal of the administration cupola, and the replacement of the slate roof with corrugated metal. Those alterations plus the usual additions of exterior lighting, antennas, and utility boxes diminish the historic character, but it's still an attractive building.

The hospital lives on as the Cherokee Mental Health Institute which still uses much of the Kirkbride. Most of the south wing however is currently home to a prison and is surrounded by prison grade fencing. A museum of original asylum artifacts and history is kept in the basement of the Kirkbride and is open to the public by appointment.

Other names for this hospital:

  • Cherokee State Hospital for the Insane
  • Cherokee Mental Health Center


Forum Topics

AP Photos
Some Associated Press photos from the prison side of the Cherokke Kirkbride were posted online a few days...
Iowa To Close A State Psychiatric Facility?
As I mentioned in this blog post: Iowa to Close a Kirkbride, the state of Iowa is considering closing down one of it's four state psychiatric facilities.Here's more about that...
Driven To Cherokee
There's an author named Jennifer Semple Siegel who has written a book about being involuntarily committed to Cherokee State Hospital when she was...

Blog Posts

Iowa to Close a Kirkbride?
One of Iowa's four state psychiatric hospitals will be shut down according to an article in the Sioux City Journal: State May Close Mental Health Facility. This means yet another...
Cherokee State Hospital
I've added a page for Cherokee State Hospital. The photos date from the same trip in 2004 when I visited Clarinda and Independence. Like the other two Kirkbrides, the building...
Kirkbrides in American Memory
A while ago I came across some photos of Taunton State Hospital on the Library of Congress' American Memory web site. They're part of a collection of photos put together by the...