Skip to Main Content

Willamsburg, Virginia: America's First Mental Hospital (Closed)

See how mental patients were warehoused in early America. Cells, strait jackets, and the unsoothing Tranquilizer Chair.

The Public Hospital

At the southwest corner of Colonial Willamsburg, bordered by S. Henry, W. Francis, S. Nassau, and W. Court Sts. Parking lot across from entrance, on the north side of W. Francis St.
Summer daily 10-7, fewer hours and days off-season. (Call to verify)
$13 (for just the museum)

Visitor Tips and News About America's First Mental Hospital

Reports and tips from visitors and Roadside America mobile tipsters. Some tips may not be verified. Submit your own tip.

Treatment seat.

America's First Mental Hospital

The "Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds" is the first public building in North America dedicated to treatment of the mentally ill. On June 4, 1770, the legislators adopted an act to "Make Provision for the Support and Maintenance of Ideots, Lunaticks, and other Persons of unsound Minds." The hospital admitted its first patient in 1773. Thomas Jefferson wasn't very impressed with the building, saying that it resembled a "rude misshapen pile." The hospital burned down in 1885, and a reconstruction was built on the original location in 1985.

There are exhibits on how a typical patient's room looked, the torturous-looking "tranquilizer chair," and, of course, a strait jacket. The hospital is the entrance to a couple of other museums, so don't miss the exhibit of archaeological artifacts (spoons, corn cobs, a cow joint bone, etc.) found in a 200 year old rat's nest from Wetherburn's Tavern.

[John Takao Collier, 06/21/2016]

Latest Tips Across Roadside America

Catch up on the latest discoveries from the road.

Explore Thousands of Oddball Tourist Attractions!

Unique destinations in the U.S. and Canada are our special obsession. Use our attraction recommendation and maps to plan your next road trip.

My Sights

My Sights on Roadside America

Save Cool Vacation Destinations! ...Try My Sights

Mobile Apps

Roadside America app: iPhone, iPad Roadside America app for iPhone, iPad. On-route maps, 1,000s of photos, special research targets! ...More

Roadside Presidents app: iPhone, iPad Roadside Presidents app for iPhone, iPad. POTUS landmarks, oddities. ...More

Virginia Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, Woodland Park, Colorado (Apr 15-21, 2024)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings