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The South Carolina State Hospital: Stories from Bull Street (Landmarks)

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Nearly two decades after it closed, the South Carolina State Hospital continues to hold a palpable mystique in Columbia and throughout the state. Founded in 1821 as the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum, it housed, fed and treated thousands of patients incapable of surviving on their own. The patient population in 1961 eclipsed 6,600, well above its listed capacity of 4,823, d Nearly two decades after it closed, the South Carolina State Hospital continues to hold a palpable mystique in Columbia and throughout the state. Founded in 1821 as the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum, it housed, fed and treated thousands of patients incapable of surviving on their own. The patient population in 1961 eclipsed 6,600, well above its listed capacity of 4,823, despite an operating budget that ranked forty-fifth out of the forty-eight states with such large public hospitals. By the mid-1990s, the patient population had fallen under 700, and the hospital had become a symbol of captivity, horror and chaos. Author William Buchheit details this history through the words and interviews of those who worked on the iconic campus.


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Nearly two decades after it closed, the South Carolina State Hospital continues to hold a palpable mystique in Columbia and throughout the state. Founded in 1821 as the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum, it housed, fed and treated thousands of patients incapable of surviving on their own. The patient population in 1961 eclipsed 6,600, well above its listed capacity of 4,823, d Nearly two decades after it closed, the South Carolina State Hospital continues to hold a palpable mystique in Columbia and throughout the state. Founded in 1821 as the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum, it housed, fed and treated thousands of patients incapable of surviving on their own. The patient population in 1961 eclipsed 6,600, well above its listed capacity of 4,823, despite an operating budget that ranked forty-fifth out of the forty-eight states with such large public hospitals. By the mid-1990s, the patient population had fallen under 700, and the hospital had become a symbol of captivity, horror and chaos. Author William Buchheit details this history through the words and interviews of those who worked on the iconic campus.

30 review for The South Carolina State Hospital: Stories from Bull Street (Landmarks)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kristina Robbins

    Growing up in Columbia, I was always a little obsessed with the state hospital on Bull Street. I enjoyed learned more about the history of the building and appreciated the insight into the inner workings of the hospital from the interviews with the nurses, social workers, and various aides. However.... this book is BADLY in need of an editor. There were so many errors, it was distracting. In one paragraph, the author refers to a Dr. Obert Kempson and in the next paragraph, he is Dr. Obert Simpso Growing up in Columbia, I was always a little obsessed with the state hospital on Bull Street. I enjoyed learned more about the history of the building and appreciated the insight into the inner workings of the hospital from the interviews with the nurses, social workers, and various aides. However.... this book is BADLY in need of an editor. There were so many errors, it was distracting. In one paragraph, the author refers to a Dr. Obert Kempson and in the next paragraph, he is Dr. Obert Simpson. "Forest Acres" in one paragraph, "Forrest Acres" in another. And probably the worst: Buchheit interviews a former patient, Jan Wise, about her time at the state hospital. She is referred to as Jan Wise in multiple different places throughout the interview, yet the 2 pictures of her were subtitled "Jan Price". Also, I don't understand the reason for putting a paragraph long quote from the interviewee at the beginning of each chapter, only to have the same quote repeated on the very next page, when the chapters are no more than a few pages long. Anyway, editor needed, point made.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Angela Knight

    A great read for anyone who enjoys History, Sociology and Psychology. Also, a definite read for those who are activists against social injustice. The author did a professional job at writing about the goods times people had at the hospital and the challenging times. It manifests the need for better mental health services in South Carolina and more funding. At the same time, from reading this work, it doesn't seem that such large hospitals are needed anymore for mental health patients due to the A great read for anyone who enjoys History, Sociology and Psychology. Also, a definite read for those who are activists against social injustice. The author did a professional job at writing about the goods times people had at the hospital and the challenging times. It manifests the need for better mental health services in South Carolina and more funding. At the same time, from reading this work, it doesn't seem that such large hospitals are needed anymore for mental health patients due to the negatives involved with such large institutional settings. I find the book a call to action for the state of SC and it's citizens to insist on better mental healthcare in our state. Our state deserves nothing but the best.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Betsy Crawford

    Fascinating! I’ve literally driven by this hospital most of my adult life and never knew or understood the history of this iconic landmark. If you are interested in the history of how mental health patients have been cared for and treated, this book is a “must read.” And if you are from South Carolina, you will definitely learn something! I didn’t know that our current Governor Henry McMaster’s brother John McMaster was a passionate advocate for the patients and brought tremendous progress & cha Fascinating! I’ve literally driven by this hospital most of my adult life and never knew or understood the history of this iconic landmark. If you are interested in the history of how mental health patients have been cared for and treated, this book is a “must read.” And if you are from South Carolina, you will definitely learn something! I didn’t know that our current Governor Henry McMaster’s brother John McMaster was a passionate advocate for the patients and brought tremendous progress & change to the hospital before the deinstitutionalization. I plowed through this book quickly because it’s SO well-written by journalist William Buckheit. He interviews patients, therapists, doctors, nurses, orderlies and even a pastor who worked there. This book is short - around 150 pages - but impactful.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kira

    Super interesting read! I have been interested in the state hospital for a while now. I worked extensively on the campus during one of my college classes and learned a lot about the buildings and the history of the campus. But in this book you really get a feel of the personal stories of the folks who worked for the state hospital and in some cases devoted their lives to helping the mentally ill. I also believe this book is a great argument for the good that institution like the state hospital d Super interesting read! I have been interested in the state hospital for a while now. I worked extensively on the campus during one of my college classes and learned a lot about the buildings and the history of the campus. But in this book you really get a feel of the personal stories of the folks who worked for the state hospital and in some cases devoted their lives to helping the mentally ill. I also believe this book is a great argument for the good that institution like the state hospital did for their patients.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Porter

    Mental hospitals needed This book was special to me as I’m from South Carolina. I’ve always heard bad things about Bull Street obviously from people who didn’t know. This book sheds a different light on the patients and the care they received. We definitely need a mental health hospital. So many people need help.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Listened to audiobook. This is an interesting compendium of former employees, some patients and one volunteer's recollections of their experiences at the now-closed institution. While self-selection (by making oneself available to be interviewed) lends itself to stories which are particularly positive or negative, there was a balance of both. However, the negative ones are clustered at the beginning of the book. The latter half, perhaps more, reads like a very romanticized rendition of reality an Listened to audiobook. This is an interesting compendium of former employees, some patients and one volunteer's recollections of their experiences at the now-closed institution. While self-selection (by making oneself available to be interviewed) lends itself to stories which are particularly positive or negative, there was a balance of both. However, the negative ones are clustered at the beginning of the book. The latter half, perhaps more, reads like a very romanticized rendition of reality and demonization of deinstitutionalization. Certainly, closing huge state hospitals in favor of providing mental health care to persons in their home communities was a great idea that failed in its implementation, but one will not find recountings of the overcrowding and sometimes abysmal conditions in which patients were living.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Panarello

    If you’ve ever wondered about the empty buildings on Bull Street, check out this book! The stories will leave you with your mind blown and sometimes heartbroken. It is not all sad, there were some fantastic stories of hope as well woven throughout. I can’t wait to discuss this one at our book club lunch this month. 😍👏 My favorite quote from the book was from Loretta Smith, “It was my favorite job...I learned about empathy. I learned that everybody has something they are dealing with. You don’t g If you’ve ever wondered about the empty buildings on Bull Street, check out this book! The stories will leave you with your mind blown and sometimes heartbroken. It is not all sad, there were some fantastic stories of hope as well woven throughout. I can’t wait to discuss this one at our book club lunch this month. 😍👏 My favorite quote from the book was from Loretta Smith, “It was my favorite job...I learned about empathy. I learned that everybody has something they are dealing with. You don’t get through this world without having to battle something, and I learned that there. It was a good training ground for life.” 💗

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tessa Campbell

    There was a fair bit of repetition in these short stories which I found unnecessary, but overall a good book that made you think about various issues you never would unless exposed to in your own life. It was also a testament to good work ethics that have fallen by the wayside through the years. It’s humbling and saddening to hear the stories yet so uplifting to hear the employees living through it and appreciating the small and large changes they were making in lives.....makes it even sadder to There was a fair bit of repetition in these short stories which I found unnecessary, but overall a good book that made you think about various issues you never would unless exposed to in your own life. It was also a testament to good work ethics that have fallen by the wayside through the years. It’s humbling and saddening to hear the stories yet so uplifting to hear the employees living through it and appreciating the small and large changes they were making in lives.....makes it even sadder to see that area of town being torn down (but loved the photos the book offered!) and revitalized when there are so many lives that could be revitalized instead of greedy pockets.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sprott

    I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of stories about Bull Street as told by doctors, staffers and former patients. What has stayed with me are the declarations of how peaceful a place it was and how some people were happy there, and that after treatment there they came out and lived a productive life. What will also stay with me is how staffers see former patients living on the streets in Columbia, unable to cope with life on the outside. Also, I’ll not forget the stories of gross neglect when I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of stories about Bull Street as told by doctors, staffers and former patients. What has stayed with me are the declarations of how peaceful a place it was and how some people were happy there, and that after treatment there they came out and lived a productive life. What will also stay with me is how staffers see former patients living on the streets in Columbia, unable to cope with life on the outside. Also, I’ll not forget the stories of gross neglect when the institution was critically understaffed.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Angela Belt-Williams

    Great read! I was hesitant when I first picked this novel up. I was afraid it would be one of those boring matter of fact books with no human interaction. But I was wrong. I read the entire book in one sitting. It was not only informative but humorous and heart wrenching at times. A definite read!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Kingwood-Weldon

    Wonderful I have always been curious about the South Carolina State Hospital. I always felt saddened for the patients there. It is such an historical landmark, and it really stands as a beacon in the State of South Carolina.A place to remember. Wonderful book, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Roberts

    This book provides a fascinating look into the storied S.C. State Hospital known mainly as “Bull Street” through stories from former employees and patients. The author does a fantastic job of bringing to light not only the shortcomings but the successes of having a state institution taking care of the mentally ill. Deinstitutionalization has its good points but this book does make you wonder.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Great book about the mental health system. It was a great book about the History of the state hospital. Great stories told by the people who worked there and I really enjoyed looking at the pictures.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ron Stafford

    Great Interesting look at the history of the SC State Hospital. A placed shrouded in myth is made open and accessible.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Julie price

    Very interesting. This book is well written. It's very easy to read and very informative. I like to read true books that teach the history of the state.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Suzan Familia

    Very interesting read on the history mental health care at Bull Street.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Jackson

    Would like more depth I enjoyed this book very much but wished it had more depth. I felt like it just skimmed the top about the hospital. Would like more from the people that worked there over the years. More about the methods and medications they used, etc.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  19. 5 out of 5

    ME Burch

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amy Moore

  21. 4 out of 5

    Susan Pearson

  22. 4 out of 5

    Keith

  23. 4 out of 5

    J Nixon

  24. 4 out of 5

    jskin1234aol.com

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alovely28

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gail Armtrong

  27. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

  29. 5 out of 5

    Martha Peebles

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mary

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