Established in 1919 by an act of the Legislature. Opened for “colored” patients in 1926 and then integrated in 1954. In 1957, the Hospital acquired the former Boys Industrial School. Then a rehabilitation center was added to the Hospital. Some of the property was moved to the ownership of WV Dept of Agriculture in the 1970s. The property associated with the industrial school was sold to AEP River Operations to build a facility there. I believe all of the old buildings have since been demolished. The WV State Tree Farm and a women’s prison are now operated on property where the hospital was once located. According to the Lakin Hospital website: “Lakin Hospital, a long term care nursing facility owned and operated by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, has been providing 24/7 non-skilled nursing care since 1979.”
In starting this compendium of information, I was focused on a historical marker for the old Lakin State Hospital. I did not know the history of the site, only that the property has been owned by the state and used under many guises for a century. In searching old newspaper articles, you find young men sent to the school when charged with a myriad of crimes. You also find abuse from the administration.
So, this compendium will be a hodge podge of articles and newspaper clippings and old photos I found on various websites. This information will cover the state hospital (on one side of the road), the state tree farm (next to the hospital) and the industrial school for “colored” boys (on the other side of the road).
Looking up where “Lakin” comes from, I found this entry in the book “West Virginia Place Names, Their Origins and Meanings” by: Hamill Kenny
I found an article from the Daily Register of Point Pleasant. Solid article. A few quotes from it are below. From: https://www.mydailyregister.com/news/13115/gone-but-not-forgotten
“T.G. Nutter, Harry Capehart and T.J. Coleman were legislators in West Virginia who were responsible for the creation of the facilities, along with others that were established for, and run by, African-Americans in an age of segregation, evident by the official names of the aforementioned: “The Lakin Industrial School For Colored Boys” and “The Lakin Hospital for the Colored Insane.” Both facilities received state funding during the era of segregation, including similar facilities: the “West Virginia Industrial Home for Colored Girls” in Huntington, W.Va., and the “West Virginia Colored Deaf and Blind School” in Institute, W.Va.”
…”The industrial school was in operation from 1924 until 1956. A brief description of the school appears in the book “West Virginia In History, Life, Literature and Industry,” by Morris Purdy Shawkey and was published in 1928. It describes the school as being “designed for delinquent boys who have not acquired violent habits and provides for such boys the care and training necessary to convert them to good citizenship. Large emphasis is placed upon work for which the farm and the shops provide useful and well adapted tasks in abundance.””
About the hospital… “Patients also worked on Lakin’s farm which not only raised dairy cows, hogs and chickens, but grew vegetables used in the hospital’s cannery. At one time, Lakin had its own store and post office as well as beautician and barber services, shoe repair, a seamstress, minister, auto shop, pharmacy, medical lab and ambulance services. So, in essence, Lakin was its own self-sufficient city, and staff and patients didn’t have to go into town — because they were their own town.”
Trying to find articles regarding how everything came together in 1919 has proven difficult. It does seem that there was competition among West Virginia counties in who would be awarded the funding to build the facility, as is touched upon in the below 1919 article.
From The CLIO: https://www.theclio.com/entry/7062
Established in 1919 and opening in 1926, the hospital was a groundbreaking facility in that it provide care for black citizens and was operated by a black administration and staff. Lakin State Hospital was one of only two health care facilities in the country that provided such an arrangement.
One of several institutions in West Virginia whose creation can be attributed to the efforts of T.G. Nutter, Harry Capehart, and T.J. Coleman. These men helped to establish institutions which provided services to the state’s African- American community.
Psychiatric treatment in the United States from 1948 into the 1950s often resorted to lobotomies as treatment. Dr. Walter Freeman, developer of the transorbital (ice pick) lobotomy, performed many such procedures at the facility.
In the 1970s Lakin Hospital stopped providing psychiatric care and began providing nursing care.
It is estimated that 900 West Virginians received transorbital lobotomies between 1948 and 1955.
The procedures were conducted at Lakin, Weston, Spencer and Huntington state hospitals, and most were performed by Walter Freeman, the American neurologist who pioneered the original procedure in the United States in the mid-1930s.
In 1931 the name was changed from “State industrial school for colored boys” to “West Virginia Industrial School For Colored Boys”. Also changed, “State hospital for colored insane” to “Lakin state hospital”.
I found this website with a brief description of the facilities. The great part of this website is the number of images from the abandoned properties. The description and one image below is from: https://abandonedonline.net/location/lakin-industrial-school-for-colored-boys/
Lakin Industrial School for Colored Boys was founded by T.G. Nutter, Harry Capehart, and T.J. Coleman, three black state legislators that created several state-funded reform institutions for blacks between 1919 and 1921. The first building completed was a three-story brick building in 1924, followed by a gymnasium in the 1940s, along with other auxiliary structures.
Lakin closed in 1956, two years after the Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision led to the gradual desegregation of many public schools and colleges in the United States. Those who remained at Lakin before its closure were transferred to the Pruntytown Industrial School at Pruntytown. The complex was later acquired by the West Virginia Department of Health & Human Services and then to the West Virginia Department of Agriculture in 1976 for use as storage.
An arson attempt in 2000 did very little damage to the school, a testament to the brute strength of the fireproof building. After decades of abandonment, the Lakin Industrial School was demolished in November 2006.
From The CLIO: McDaniel, Lew, Lee Sigmon, and Clio Admin. “Lakin Industrial School for Colored Boys.” Clio: Your Guide to History. June 4, 2021. Accessed October 16, 2021. https://theclio.com/entry/7064
Lakin Industrial School for Colored Boys was part of the West Virginia juvenile justice system. Opening in 1922, students were transferred in from the state’s other industrial school at Prunytown. From its outset, the school’s students and staff were African Americans. The school remained open until 1956 when the property closed and children were transferred to other state agencies. American Electric Power eventually purchased the grounds and demolished most of the buildings in 2006.
Located in Lakin, WV just across from another historic institution, the West Virginia Hospital for the Colored Insane, both institutions were made possible through the efforts of T.G. Nutter, Harry Capehart, and T.J. Coleman.1 These three African- Americans were members of the West Virginia legislature and were instrumental in creating institutions that provided jobs for African American staff members to serve African Americans, a measure that was viewed as progressive at that time. Students at the school received training in several different industrial fields. The facility included a mechanics garage and farm. While most of the structures associated with the Industrial School have been demolished; however, many of the buildings have been photographed.
From: Sonis, Larry “Lakin Hospital.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 17 May 2013. Web. 16 October 2021.
Created by an act of the West Virginia Legislature in 1919, Lakin State Hospital was established as an institution ‘‘for the care and cure of the mentally ill colored persons of this state.’’ The hospital began operations on February 1, 1926, when 162 patients were transferred from Weston State Hospital. In 1954, the year the U.S. Supreme Court held that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, Lakin staff and patients were integrated. An act of the legislature in 1974 changed the name to Lakin Hospital.
Located on the Ohio River about eight miles from Point Pleasant in Mason County, Lakin for many years provided mental health services to adults and children. Its facilities included brick dormitories for adult patients, a center for emotionally disturbed children, and a rehabilitation center which provided job training and other services. By the end of the 1970s, Lakin’s mission shifted. Adult psychiatric services were discontinued and care of the elderly and physically handicapped adults was expanded, while the children’s program remained. Lakin in recent years has provided long-term, intermediate care services for geriatric patients in a building constructed in the mid-1970s. Most of the older building have been demolished. Lakin Correctional Center, the state’s only all-female prison, is adjacent to Lakin Hospital.
Newspaper clipping regarding the state budget mentions facilities at Lakin:
Tons of images after property abandonment: https://abandonedonline.net/location/lakin-industrial-school-for-colored-boys/
Sergent, Beth. “Tumbling into history.” Point Pleasant Register 18 Nov. 2006. Web. 25 Nov. 2006.
Shawkey, Moris Purdy. “West Virginia In History, Life, Literature and Industry.” 1928.
Another site with tons of images of the property after abandonment: https://www.ohioexploration.com/structures/lakinindustrialschool/