Harrisburg State Hospital

In 1845, Dorothea Dix petitioned Pennsylvania's legislature to create a public asylum for the mentally ill. Her efforts were successful and Harrisburg State Hospital was established as the state's first public psychiatric hospital. Construction of the hospital's Kirkbride building began in 1848 and was completed in 1851. John Haviland was the architect.

The building was designed in a relatively modest neo-classical style with a Tuscan portico at the main entrance and a large dome crowning the administration center. It was one of the earliest Kirkbride buildings to be built. Unfortunately, the building was widely considered to be poorly designed and constructed. As the Cottage Plan gained favor in late 19th century, sections of the building were systematically torn down and replaced with newer buildings over a span of several years. By some time in the early twentieth century, the original Kirkbride building ceased to exist.

Harrisburg State Hospital continued to provide care to the state's mentally ill until 2006 when it was closed as part of the downsizing of Pennsylvania's public mental health system. The campus is now used as office space for a variety of state agencies.

Other names for this hospital:

  • Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital
  • Union Asylum for the Insane


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