February 28, 2021

Northern State Mental Hospital

About the Photo

Last October

found us wandering through this abandoned mental hospital near Sedro-Wooley, Washington.

The hospital opened in 1913 and treated those who were considered mentally ill at that time. This spectrum covered everything from social misfits, alcoholics, those suffering from depression or epilepsy, to the violently mentally ill (which were few). Treatments were as you would expect for the times. But despite shock treatments, lobotomies, heavy sedation, and drug-induced comas, Northern State was known as one of the best insane asylums in the state.

The campus is in a beautiful rural location, sitting in fields surrounded by woodlands and mountain scenery. Patients woke up in the morning and those who were able went to work in the kitchens, gardens, sawmill, shops, and barns. In the late forties and into the fifties, the campus took on improvements that included a large dining room with "good" food, desserts and candies, a social area, and a chapel, among other things.

Since most patients were dropped off and abandoned by their families, they lived out their lives at the hospital and were buried just off campus at the hospital's cemetery. Most graves there are marked only by initials and a number.

When the site was closed in 1973 it was literally walked away from. Because of that remains now feels quite alive since we can see the structures, both in and outside. It is easy to imagine the patients walking to work at the dairy farm in the morning and going about their business.

The site is open to the public and has paths and walkways that take you through the working and living areas. As I mentioned before, the location is beautiful; but because of what it was, I found it to be both disturbing and pleasurable. Either way though, it's a go-see if you live or find yourself around northern Washington State.

You can find it at 25625 Helmick Road in Sedro-Woolley, Washington. Bring your walking shoes.

*Sadly, the buildings that are left have been decimated with graffiti in a big way. I have taken the liberty of removing most of it from my photos.