Asylum on the Hill is the story of a great American experiment in psychiatry, a revolution in care for those with mental illness, as seen through the example of the Athens Lunatic Asylum. Built in southeast Ohio after the Civil War, the asylum embodied the nineteenth-century “gold standard” specifications of moral treatment. Stories of patients and their families, politicians, caregivers, and community illustrate how a village in the coalfields of the Hocking River valley responded to a national movement to provide compassionate care based on a curative landscape, exposure to the arts, outdoor exercise, useful occupation, and personal attention from a physician.
Katherine Ziff’s compelling presentation of America’s nineteenth-century asylum movement shows how the Athens Lunatic Asylum accommodated political, economic, community, family, and individual needs and left an architectural legacy that has been uniquely renovated and repurposed. Incorporating rare photos, letters, maps, and records, Asylum on the Hill is a fascinating glimpse into psychiatric history.
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Asylum on the Hill
I grew up in Athens and spent a great deal of time at The State Hospital on the hill. My father was a Music Professor at Ohio University and was a choir director at the Asylum and I used to play my violin for patients occasionally. I attended movies on Saturday afternoons. I ice skated and picnicked on the beautiful grounds. I wasn’t so interested in the many, many statistics necessary in the book, but more interested in remembering so many happy times in a beautiful place. The book presented a period in history that served a very progressive, caring attitude toward mental health. I enjoyed the book very much. Thanks for the memories. Is there a way I can contact Katherine Ziff directly? E. Pierce