The second I saw the distinctive buildings on the south side of Lincoln, I knew exactly what I had just stumbled upon on my tour of the Central Illinois city that my family has driven by hundreds of times, but never visited.
This is the former Lincoln State School, which has gone by numerous other names over the last century and change, but is the name I found it referred to the most. It started with a more cruel name back in 1877, after a similar facility first opened in Jacksonville.
Just as at Bartonville, outside of Peoria, there was once a grand Victorian era building that has been demolished. If you want to read in greater depth the horrible things that went on here, and which precipitated its closure in 2002, click on the link above. As someone recently remarked, if history doesn’t sometime make you uncomfortable, you’re not doing it right.
The sheer size of these massive institutions is indicated by the power plant below, which must have served the school, which is a term I use loosely. Increasingly, most Americans will not remember just how many millions of their fellow citizens were housed–or imprisoned, depending on your perspective–in these places that dated back to a major social and medical movement in United States history.
This colorful restaurant across the train tracks from the institution offers a strange juxtaposition to what I found behind the chainlink fence.