The Virginia Gazette

Today in the 1770s: August 2

WILLIAMSBURG, July 10, 1770.
At a Court of Directors, appointed by the Act of Assembly, for establishing an Hospital for the Reception of Ideots, Lunatics, and Persons of insane Mind, held at the Capitol the 10th Day of July, 1770. ORDERED, that PEYTON RANDOLPH, JOHN RANDOLPH, ROBERT CARTER NICHOLAS, JOHN BLAIR, jun. and THOMAS EVERARD, Esquires, be appointed a Committee, to agree on a Plan for the HOSPITAL, and to advertise the building thereof; as also to receive Proposals for that Purpose of the several Undertakers, and to make report of their Proceedings to the next Court. JACOB BRUCE, C.C.D. Williamsburg, August 2, 1770 The Committee appointed have, in Pursuence of the above Order, agreed on a plan for the Hospital, and are ready to treat with all Undertakers, who may incline to engage in the Work. It is to be a large, commodius Brick Building, and to be erected in or as near the city of Williamsburg as conveniently may be.

Virginia Gazette (Rind) August 2, 1770

About this entry:

On the eve of the American Revolution a new public building joined the ranks of others that preceded it in the colonial capital of Virginia. Despite the lack of fanfare that accompanied both the its founding and its completion, the Public Hospital for "Idiots, Lunatics and Persons-of Insane Mind" was unique. This last major public building constructed in Williamsburg in the colonial period holds the distinction as the first institution in America built solely for the treatment of the mentally ill. Governor :Francis Fauquier, the founder of the Public Hospital, was a gentleman of great intellect and large philanthropic and humanitarian interests. In his proposal he stated, "It is expedient I should also recommend to your consideration and Humanity a poor unhappy set of People who are deprived of their senses and wander about the Country, terrifying the Rest of their Fellow Creatures. A legal confinement, and proper Provision, ought to be appointed for these miserable objects, who cannot help themselves. Every civilized Country has an Hospital for these People, where they are confined, maintained and attended by able Physicians, to endeavour to restor to them their lost Reason."

Sources: CWRR 61 , Introduction to "Design for Madness", by Travis MacDonald

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