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Meet The Public Hospital of 1773

On our visit to the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia we took an unexpected, yet informative tour of the Public Hospital of 1773. It is the first exhibit you will view when entering the museum and I must say you should definitely have a visit!


The Public Hospital of 1773 was the first of its kind as a facility in North America created to treat the mentally ill. Physicians of that era used treatments that are considered inhumane today, however at that time they felt it was the optimum way to cure those deemed as mentally ill.


The first patient was admitted on October 12, 1773. The hospital was ordered by Governor Francis Fauquier who was living in the 18th century Enlightenment period. Those during the Enlightenment strongly believed that science could cure “persons who are so unhappy as to be deprived of their reason.”



The hospital had 24 cells like a prison that were later turned into rooms with cots, windows and other things to make it more livable for those who were admitted.




Patients were treated and discharged, however some were also considered a danger to society and were held at the hospital indefinitely. All sorts of techniques were used for treatment from restraints, water treatment, drugs to electro static therapy (aka shock therapy). The exhibit has many of these instruments on display.


It was interesting to see those things and I can’t believe this was the reality for some people back in the 18th century – not an episode of American Horror Story. Although, I wonder if the producers visited this hospital and got the idea for the season with the asylum?


If you want to visit the museums (there are two other museums and they are also worth a visit) tickets are $12.99 for adults and $6.49 for ages 6 – 12. If you purchase a Colonial Williamsburg ticket the museums are included.

I’ll leave with you a few of my favorite photos from the other museums: The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum (all located in the same building). Happy travels!






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