Independence State Hospital, Iowa

Update: I revisited the hospital on a sunny morning in July of 2022.

I first visited Independence, Iowa, which is the county seat of Buchanan County in the northeastern portion of the state, in 2011 and photographed the streetscape improvements in the downtown area (though I didn’t post the photos until 2018). As it turns out, Independence is full of all sorts of surprises, and I will be looking at the town over the next couple of days, starting with this incredibly rare and still functioning complex, now known as the Mental Health Institute, but originally known as the Independence Lunatic Asylum.

Iowa Asylum for the Insane, Independence, Iowa, Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress, 1977, ia0041

This is an amazing intact example of what is known as the Kirkbride style of mental health institutions from the Nineteenth Century.

Iowa Insane Asylum, Photo of an Engraving, c. 1891, Library of Congress

As can be seen from the groundplan, the hospital or asylum started with a central core and then stepped back in a series of wings.

Groundplan, Iowa Asylum for the Insane, Independence, c. 1891, Library of Congress, ia0041

This institution, designed by Stephen Vaughn Shipman, is an amazing example of the Second Empire style as well, and took ten years to construct.

Iowa Asylum for the Insane, Independence, Iowa, Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress, 1977, ia0041a

The building has only been simplified in minor details, and is perhaps one of the best examples of a preserved hospital from the Nineteenth Century in America.

There are also several outbuildings, as well.

This building below was probably built in the early Twentieth Century.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. W. White says:

    Like the HABS photographs of Montauk you posted last week, these are not from the 1930s; they are from the 1970s, specifically 1974. In this case, the cars in front of the building should illustrate that.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Ah yes, that makes sense! Those cars were so small off in the distance that I originally didn’t see them. Thank you!

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