Frankfort State Hospital & School



On March 1, 1860, Governor Magoffin signed a bill to create an institution for the education and training of the feeble-minded children of Kentucky. Children were divided into classes according to intellect. They had to be at least 6 years old and not older than 14 years old, although children from the age of 17 were admitted.

In 1864, the establishment of a mechanical department was developed. The pupils made mattresses, brooms and brushes. During this period, the following words were used: idiots, imbecile, and feebleminded.

In the 1870’s, corporal punishment was used. The institution was referred to as “The Third Kentucky Lunatic Asylum. Common industries were introduced: Carpenter shop, Shoe Shop, and Sewing Shop. In the 1880’s, new buildings were built and improvements were made to the property. Practically all the digging was done by the boys at the institution. The total capacity was now 250.

In the 1900’s, more improvements were made to the institution and the work was done by the boys. They formed a union and demanded wages. They were paid a small amount of money for their work.

In 1916, Dr. Helm, Superintendent found the conditions to be deplorable-unclean, unsanitary, not enough water for bathing, no fire protection, the machinery was in bad condition, and in need of paint.

In 1925, restraint was being used on the pupils. One child was in seclusion for 77 days and others were put in lock up, in straight jackets, or in handcuffs. Standing in the hall was another punishment.

In 1930’s, 740 children lived in the institution and it was severely overcrowded. In 1945, the institute became the Kentucky Training Home. There was severe overcrowding with 750 pupils and instead of training and education , the service was custodial. There were both children and adults and they were housed together.

In 1963, there were 1129 residents. The facility qualified for federal funds and the name was changed to Frankfort State Hospital and School. In 1972, the Frankfort State Hospital and School Closed serving 700 residents from ages 5-75.

Cemetery Cleanup Project

picture1On the Thursdays before Memorial Day Weekend in 2012 and 2013, the PADD Board and KYSAFF were joined by over forty volunteers to tend the graves of those forgotten, fellow Kentuckians. There are 371 graves with the word “unknown” on the marker. By the end of the day, all of the graves were cleaned, grass clippings removed, the cemetery was mowed, an American flag was placed on each grave, a Memorial Day wreath was placed on the front gate, the Kentucky Historical Society had registered the cemetery and 411 Kentuckians were remembered.

Historical Marker

11267551_725949800860968_6743442818682329146_o.jpgThe PADD Board submitted an application and was approved for a historical marker for the Frankfort State Hospital and School Cemetery. The application was submitted to the Kentucky Historical Society for approval. This marker will honor and remember the many Kentuckians that lived and died at the Frankfort State Hospital School. To honor these forgotten individuals and remember their place in history, the PADD Board will participate in several Fundraising Activities to raise funds for the marker. This marker was dedicated in May 2014.

Want more information about this historical marker? Please click here for more details on the HMDB website.

Contributed by PADD Board, Susan A., Robin O., and Phil T.

Featured Video

Arthur: Learning from the Past

This writer and advocate remembers the old Frankfort State Hospital, and how the history and current situation of the cemetery for that old state hospital show how our society still devalues individuals with disabilities. And he also shares what he and others are doing to change that!


Some newspaper images are from historical archives of The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky). Some photos are provided from former annual reports of the hospital to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. All other photos and videos were obtained, donated, or copied from state and hospital archives or personal collections. Please contact us before using any photographs or images on this website. We do not own the copyrights to all photos and those photos we do own require written permission before any use.

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