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“Mayview Has Deep Roots In Pittsburgh Area”

 This article found on KDKA’s website dated December 29, 2008 can be viewed in it’s original format at …. http://kdka.com/local/Mayview.state.hospital.2.896738.html  It offers a little more information about the history of Mayview State Hospital.  It has some info that is similar to other articles I’ve posted about Mayview’s history, but there were also some items that weren’t in other articles, so it’s worth reading if you have an interest in the history of Mayview State Hospital.  KDKA also has a video that goes along with this article it can be seen by clicking the following link …. http://video.aol.com/video-detail/mayview-state-hospital-closes-for-good/1149901200 

Mayview Has Deep Roots In Pittsburgh Area


The roots of Mayview State Hospital run deep. It began as a “poor house,” located on Virgin Alley, now Oliver Avenue, near Wood Street in the early 1800’s.

This news item from the “Pittsburgh Dispatch” of 1893: “The removal of inmates of the City Poor Farm occurred yesterday. In less than 8 hours after the work commenced, the city’s poor were in their new quarters.”

With mental illness still very much a mystery, they did the best they could in those new quarters known as Marshalsea back then.  More than 300 acres of farmland in South Fayette Township eventually became Mayview State Hospital. But the mentally ill were only part of the patient population.

“It was sort of the misfits of society would be sent to these places,” says Father George DeVille, now pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Washington County. Father DeVille was chaplain at Mayview and has written a history of the place.

In the 1930’s there were 4,000 patients and a train ran from Mayview to downtown Pittsburgh. Aside from sheltering the mentally ill, Mayview housed a nursery for illegitimate children, provided medical and surgical treatments for the poor and elderly, as well as tuberculosis and syphilis patients.

Those with mental illness received hydro and steam box therapies, insulin and electro shock therapies. The pharmacy had a liquor license.

Even in later years, the average stay for patients with mental issues was 10 to 12 years. For some it was the only home they knew. “We would have patients 40 to 60 years,” DeVille said.

The real change in therapy came in the 1950’s with the development of specialized medications and it is those drugs that have allowed those with mental illness to move back to the community in the least restrictive settings – no longer isolated or behind bars.

“We did what we did with what we had at the time – and now things are improving – I really do think it’s better for the patient,” DeVille said.

Twelve patients still remain at Mayview. They will be cared for at the old facility by UPMC Mercy’s Behavioral Care Unit until an appropriate place can be found for them. The property is being appraised by the state and a task force will ultimately determine what will be done with it.

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