Haverford State Hospital
Located in Haverford, PA
Photo © 2005 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Haverford State Hospital History
The founding of Haverford State Hospital was a difficult one; plans for its construction were signed off in 1953, but due to resistance from local interest groups and residents, construction was delayed until 1961. The facility opened in October of 1962, and was designed to be a model of providing luxury care. In addition to the standard components a psychiatric hospital provided, it also boasted a four lane bowling alley, indoor pool, soda fountain, billiards room, large patient library, and a massive therapy room. The cost and number of these amenities gave the facility nicknames such as the "Haverford Hilton" or "Haverford Country Club." Seventeen buildings were on the property, with the largest being the Acute Intensive Care Center, commonly referred to as "Hilltop."
All the doors at the facility were kept unlocked except for Hilltop, which was a very rare sight at a psychiatric hospital at the time. This would come to hurt the hospital's reputation over time however, as by the mid-1980s, about eighty patients managed to escape into the surrounding community. One escapee sought out and killed his girlfriend in 1986, leading the state rep. to call the institution a "time bomb waiting to explode."
Haverford could not escape the rampant problem of overcrowding that plagued the other state-run psychiatric hospitals either. In 1987, the hospital was running at 141% capacity, with many of the 562 patients sleeping in day rooms and hallways. A heat wave struck a year later, making the air in some of the non-air conditioned buildings reach 115°F.
Conditions improved from this low point, and by the 1990s the hospital had transformed itself from its dubious image from the previous decade. The process of de-institutionalization had already begun though, and in 1998 the remaining 262 patients were transferred to community care or nearby Norristown State Hospital. The facility was shuttered and handed over to Haverford Township, who struggled to find a reuse plan. In 2006, the land was approved for sale and development of homes and condominiums, which would be known as "Haverford Reserve." The dilapidated hospital buildings were torn down in 2007 and 2008.