The original Lunatic Asylum of Ohio was constructed in Columbus in 1835 on Columbus’ near east side. It burned down in 1868 and the rebuild on the west side of the city was completed in 1877. It was a tremendous building, said to be the largest structure under one roof until the Pentagon was built. If you walked around it, the distance was over a mile.
In the late 1980’s the building was abandoned and finally demolished in the 1990’s. Some of the architectural details, such as railings and windows, were salvaged and installed in the Hilltop Library - where I worked for a few years.
It was a hospital where the criminally insane were sent, where the indigent ended up, and where some poor families dropped off their children and relatives.
There are a couple of cemeteries on the site, They are hidden on the west side of Columbus. The one I finally went to is fairly easy to find. It is north of the BMV, just east of a center where violent juveniles are housed and next to the Columbus Police Department’s Heliport.
It’s a very peaceful, green space but looking at the stones is a very sad experience.
Who were these people? How many of them died alone? How many of them died not knowing they had family out there, or no family left?
How many were truly mentally ill and not given the help they deserved. How many were simply odd or misunderstood?
How many were autistic?
Here is a stone that simply labels a mass grave of human beings, Specimens. This is not the only one.
Here are row after row of tiny stones that reduced people’s names to numbers.
There were so many of these types of institutions all over the country, including one a couple of miles from where I grew up. Most of them had cemeteries just like this one. The numbers of people who were not treated like human beings, not given any assistance or dignity had to be staggering. Yet here we are today, facing an uncountable number of people with autism and other disabilities and we are cutting services instead of creating them. As a society we are not prepared for this storm. I’m not sure if this culture wants to take care of the most vulnerable.
Hope you all had a woke Autism Awareness Month. May is ALS, Arthritis, Cystic Fibrosis, Huntington’s Disease, Lupus, Mental Health, Stroke, Vision and more awareness month. That’s a lot to be aware of. Will no one will be aware of autism for another year?