By Kris Leonhardt
Construction on the Wood County asylum took one year to complete and when it was finished, a 284 x 194 foot building stood on the east side of Marshfield that employed 19 staff and had room for 250 patients.
The west wing was painted blue in relation to the men that resided in the area, while the east wing was pink and served the female patients.
The center wing was home to administration, as well as a basement activity area which included one bowling alley that became the site of competitive matches among neighboring asylums.
A water tower serviced the facility and stood 75 feet tall.
“There was an underground tunnel where you could go down in the house basement, and you could go to the first barn or all of the way to the hospital,” said Ron Flink, whose dad Conrad served as manager in later years. “We use to roller-skate in that tunnel.”
That tunnel was 8 feet tall by 6 feet wide and 1,000 feet long, with 14 inches of concrete overhead for reinforcement. Its purpose was twofold – it linked the main building, heating plant, water tower, and ran under County Highway A to the farm facilities enabling a safe passageway for patients and staff as they moved between the main building and farm areas, as well as providing a passageway for the electricity and steam heat among the buildings.
Patients also performed work on the farm while residing there.
“It was a matter of keeping them occupied,” said Ron. “They were physically able, they were just a little slower, and we had pigs, we had chickens, and we had beef cows.”
In the early days of operation, the asylum kept an 18-acre garden, a fruit orchard, beehives for honey, and tobacco fields in addition to the 200 plus pigs, 20 horses, 150 plus milk and beef cattle, and nearly 1,000 chickens.
In addition, the women at the facility often created aprons and curtains and other products using their sewing skills.
The surplus products that were not needed at the facility were sold, which provided funding for needed supplies at the asylum.
In 1933, a greenhouse was built to help provide gardening services out of season.
Three years later, one of the barns burned to the ground. To prevent a reoccurrence, the new barn was constructed totally of bricks and is still standing today.
“The original barn that is (still) there was an old horse barn, but nothing was in the barn (when my dad later managed the place,)” Ron said.
Next week: The evolution of treatment