On November 4, 1834, the general assembly convened in Milledgeville, then Gov. Wilson Lumpkin made a plea on behalf of “the lunatics, idiots, and epileptics.”  Georgia legislators passed a bill in 1837 for the creation of a state-operated insane asylum. The Georgia State Lunatic Asylum opened after five years of construction in 1842. Over the years, the campus went through several name changes including; Georgia State Sanitarium, Milledgeville State Hospital, and Central State Hospital.

A sketch of the Georgia State Lunatic Asylum when it opened.

The first patient was a 30-year-old farmer from Bibb County named Tillman Barnett. He was admitted to the Georgia State Lunatic Asylum in December 1842, chained to a horse-drawn wagon by his wife and family. Barnett was described as violent and destructive. Unfortunately, he died of “maniacal exhaustion” before the following summer. He became the first casualty in the long and dark history of one of the nation’s most notorious institutions.

The Jones Building was a general purpose hospital that opened in 1929 and closed in 1979.

Care of the patients was based on an “institution as family” model, which asserted that hospitals worked best when they resembled extended families. One of the physicians in charge at the time would eat with patients. He also abolished using chain and rope restraints, allowing them to roam freely. Many of whom were veterans of the Civil War who were unable to be cared for by their families.

The female convalescent building was erected in 1883. The back portion of the building was torn down and a modern auditorium erected in its place in 1949. The front portion was saved because it has a cornerstone with the hospital’s original name of the Georgia Lunatic Asylum.

By the 1870s, patient to physician ratio was a miserable 112 to 1, a number that would not change for over a century. Black patients were admitted after the Civil War, but were segregated to their own buildings until the 1940s.

The Jones Building served as a general hospital for the surrounding community and asylum patients for fifty years.
A quad of pecan trees is located in the middle of the sprawling campus.

 The Central State Hospital campus was once the largest insane asylum in the United States, some say even the world. At its peak, there were over 12,000 patients. The campus was its own town with a school, church, fire and police departments by the 1950s. Central State Hospital even had its own power, water, and steam plants.

As parts of Central State Hospital closed, some of the buildings were converted into state prisons. The state prisons made up for the jobs that were lost, however the buildings were not efficient and were eventually shut down. 
The buildings that house Rivers State Prison were constructed in 1937 and converted into a prison in 1981.
A guard tower overlooking one of the abandoned prison buildings.
Rivers State Prison held 1,100 medium security inmates. The prison closed in October of 2008.
Some 2,000 iron markers commemorate the 25,000 patients buried throughout the hospital grounds.
The original markers, with numbers instead of names, once identified individual graves but were pulled up and tossed in the woods by unknowing prison inmates to make mowing easier.

Today, Central State Hospital encompasses 1,750 acres with 200 buildings in various states of decay, including a pecan grove, and historic Cedar Lane Cemetery. In 2010, the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities announced the hospital would no longer be accepting new patients, and portions of the facility would be closed. For more photos of Central State Hospital check out my book, Abandoned Georgia: Exploring the Peach State.

20 Replies to “Milledgeville”

  1. Really cool piece! (Saw your post in the community pool) There was an abandoned asylum not too far from where I grew up that I and others visited many times in our teen years. There is definitely a unique appeal and draw to those kinds of places.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Rockwell Mansion has been partially restored, and is on the market for $350, 000. I grew up in Milledgeville, now live in Atlanta, so that price seems like a steal.


      1. It’s a steal, but you have to have VERY deep pockets to restore them as they should be done. No mass produced overseas crap can be used and real craftsmen should be doing it.


  2. I’ve actually seen all these buildings myself while i was at a military school in Baland circle which is the entrance to the lunatic asylum . We were told that all the abanded prisons and hospitals, and mansions were haunted

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My grandmother died there. During her child bearing years she started loosing her hearing and became completely deaf. No one could communicate with her and she was always lost. Her family put her there because nobody took time to try to help her learn to communicate. Mother said she wasn’t crazy, only deaf . So sad, very sad.


  3. After I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I receive four emails with the exact same
    comment. Perhaps there is a way you can remove me from that service?



  4. I graduated from Georgia College in 1990. Part of my teaching degree was to log so many hours at Central State. I could not tell the staff from the insane. I even played checkers with a man that had killed his brother. I will never forget going there…


  5. The reason I have family in Milledgeville is a few decades ago, on my mom’s side we had somebody who got shorted on their paycheck and took an axe to the boss’ house, broke down the door and killed him with said axe. He was sent to Milledgeville Asylum. Even after being deemed fit to leave, he chose to stay as a janitor there, as he was afraid he’d kill again. It’s neat to actually see it.

    Liked by 1 person

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