Mayview State Hospital - Abandoned by Sherman Cahal

Mayview State Hospital

Mayview State Hospital, located in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, closed in December 2008.

The earliest iteration of Mayview was a 30-room poorhouse, orphan home and mental institution for the city of Pittsburgh, which was overcrowded by 1846.1 The city purchased 150 acres along the banks of the Monongahela River and constructed a three-story, 300-patient facility, which too became burdened with too many patients.

The county sought a location in the countryside, believing that rural locales would result in healthier patients. Marshalsea, named for the London debtors prison made famous for holding Charles Dickens’ father, was constructed in southern Allegheny County in 1893 on what was the George Neal Farm by the city of Pittsburgh.1 2 The existing poorhouse was sold to the Carnegie Steel Company for $450,000.1 The new 243-acre mental institution could house 340 patients.2

In 1899, a building to house the specifically mentally challenged was constructed 1 but it was not long before it had a reputation “as a place of sorrow.”

“Poor wrecks of humanity they are – some mental, some physical, some moral wrecks – stranded, at last dependent upon the city for enough to keep a miserable broken body and a poor shrunken soul together. […] If there is to-day a discontented man or woman in this city I prescribe a trip to Marshalsea. The blood may flee from the face at times and pity clutch at the heart strings.”
-Home Monthly, 1900

In 1916, a contest was held to find a more suitable name for the facility in an attempt to ward off the negativity surrounding Marshalsea’s reputation.1 Mayview won out of four finalists and the hospital was renamed to the Pittsburgh City Home and Hospital at Mayview.2

During the early years, Mayview featured a coal mine, which fed a power plant that produced steam for heat and electricity.1 The mine, which opened in 1917, lasted until 1956.2 A hospital farm raised approximately 60% of the food that was consumed in the complex. At the height of the hospital in 1934, the hospital boasted 4,000 patients, 450 employees, 80 buildings and 1,001 acres.1 2

On June 1, 1941, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania assumed responsibility for Mayview’s 3,200 residents.2 An observation unit was established in 1946, which became the forensic center in 1974. The forensic center provided evaluation and treatment for individuals in the criminal justice system.3

Through advances in treatment for those with mental illness, state hospitals such as Mayview experienced patient declines. In 1969, more than 27,000 were housed in state hospitals, a number that declined to 4,900 in the mid-1990’s and less than 2,000 by 2007.3

In the early 1990’s, Mayview’s adolescent ward was shuttered.8 By 2008, only several buildings remained in active use on 335 acres at Mayview, housing 225 individuals from five nearby counties, employing 502 and containing a total operating budget of $63 million.1 2 Thirty-nine buildings remained, 12 of which were used for patient care and hospital administration. The remainder were either abandoned or mothballed.2

The closure of Mayview was long planned, but hastened after a series of serious incidents and deaths. In October 2007, within a time frame of 24 hours, two former Mayview patients died. Anthony Fallert, who had been released in the spring of 2006, had wondered from his residence in a South Side residence operated by Mercy Behavioral Mental Health, and most likely leapt to his death into the Monongahela River from the Birmingham Bridge.1 Fallert had also lived in facilities in Clarion County and New Kensington. On the day that Fallert’s body was being pulled from the river, Ahson J. Abdullah, another former patient of Mayview, was struck by a train as he walked on railroad tracks near his residence in Braddock. Abdullah, who revolved in and out of jail for most of his life, was a patient of Mayview’s forensic unit.1

Other incidents were noted, but as Joan Erney, deputy secretary of welfare at the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Service’s Department of Public Welfare noted, “every person deserves the opportunity to be in the community and it’s our obligation to provide them with the support they need in order to make that successful.”1 It was a stated goal of the Department to reduce reliance on institutional care and improve access to home and community-based services.2

In addition, there were options for extended acute care and treatment services at nearby hospitals, alternate employment opportunities for the staff at Mayview, and because the counties served by Mayview were within the HealthChoices managed care program for Medical Assistance recipients.2

In August 2006, one of the ten wards was closed after 30 patients were discharged, reducing the number of beds from 285 to 255.3 6 7 The first downsizing was titled “Wave 1,” indicating future patient reductions.8 Further downsizing in May and June 2007 reduced the bed count by 23.On August 15, the Department of Public Welfare announced that Mayview would close by the end of 2008.3 A total of $18.9 million was made available to support the discharge of the remaining patients.

On December 29, 2008, Mayview State Hospital closed,2 and by mid-December, 37 patients and 259 employees remained on campus.1 On the day of the closure, 17 patients were still in the hospital, entangled in a battle between the Department of Public Welfare, Mercy Behavior Health, a local firm that had been hired to take care of some of the Mayview patients, and a group of citizens in the township.9 Mercy had proposed converting a closed nursing home into a long-term residence for the mentally ill.

Local citizens, many of whom had not lived in the region during the height of Mayview, charged that many of the patients being discharged were involved in local murders or suicides, and that locating a 24-hour mental health center close to their homes – and the Mayview campus, would endanger their lives.9 The group cited news reports that two had died and three had committed murders, yet the two that had died had either passed away in accidents or suicides, and of the three who were listed as murders, none were listed as a patient at Mayview. Only one was sent to Mayview for a psychiatric evaluation after a court conviction.

What replaced Mayview was a collection of different options: outpatient mental health services for patients in small groups, long-term residential communities with 24-hour care, and institutional care at nearby hospitals with psychiatric units.1 In other instances, at least 220 affordable units were be made available, subsidized through Section 8.3

On May 24, 2010,5 the state of Pennsylvania agreed to sell the land that contained Mayview to the Aloe Brothers LLC coal company for $505,505 for nearly 200 acres, which includes a coal mine that had long closed.4 Early estimates for the land were in excess of $7.8 million, and the disappointing sale price left many involved in the reuse plan disappointed. State Senator John Pippy, who co-chaired the Mayview Land Reuse Task Force, was disappointed in the price and how quickly a deal had been reached. Pippy and others had wanted the land to be sold at fair market value and for the proceeds to go towards a trust for community-based mental health service to benefit those the hospital had earlier served.

Pippy had introduced Senate Bill 1339 in April, which would place any net proceeds of the sale into a mental health and retardation services trust that would be administered by the state Department of Public Welfare.4

Despite the high value for the land, the buildings were a $13 million liability, which left the appraisal in the negative by $5.2 million.4 5 The appraisal was not made public, which was completed by Federal Appraisal and Consulting, P.C.5 The other bid for the land was for $130,000 by Teodori Enterprises of Lawrence, who had proposed a business and industrial park on the lower part of the property and a housing tract on 22-acres where the Geriatric Ward was.4 5

Sources

34 Comments

  1. are there ghost tours available for mayview ? what is the contact info?

    • We just drove past May view today and most of the main buildings have been demolished. I was also hoping for some sort of ghost hunting opportunity

  2. Where can I find names of my relatives who were there in the 30’s and 40’s.

    • You can acquire records for past patients at the Pennsylvania State Dept. of Welfare website. You will most likely need to find the proper form and mail it to Harrisburg. Patient records at ALL state hospitals are restricted and will require documentation proving relation to the patient.

  3. Nice write up dude. I miss this place a lot and never saw any ghosts while there.

    • I always wanted to work there but i was to late they already closed but i knew a guy named jim that worked there for years used to tell me some crazy storys.there is a utube video that shows the nurses training building n o a chalk board it said tippa is that u ? This is so weird

  4. MayView is haunted I’ve personally seen two pics, 1 of looks like a demon had long face with horns and human looking arms.. the other pic was of an old man with a beard standing beside a window.

  5. I would like to know what Brilliant Money Hungry politician decided to throw those needy people out into
    the public ( and we have all seen and heard what a disaster that has been).. From first hand experience I met and
    conversed with some of the inmates there that knew no other home or how to get along in the outside world, They
    felt safe there ..they are now some of the homeless people you see on the streets..shame on this country for discarding
    our mentally ill..Im sure there are a lot of politicians out there with mentally ill relatives that we will never hear about
    because of the stigmatism attached to that illness..
    I have a mentally ill relative and the ignorance from government is beyond words!!!

  6. don’t demolish it make millions by making it a haunted attraction

    • Diana,

      I would like to leave you the same message I left Josh below:

      I am a freelance writer and native Pittsburgh resident now living in Colorado and interested in doing some research on Mayview State Hospital. I would love to learn both sides (patient and care-givers) of the story, your thoughts on its closure and effectiveness. I would like to handle this topic in an informative and compassionate manner– what lessons can be learned. If you’re willing to speak with me, please email me at julieluek@gmail.com.

      Thank you so much,

      Julie

    • I had a relative who was in Mayview her name was Alice Burgess. I know it’s been a long time don’t know if you knew her or not. She passed away October 12, 1956 at the age of 95. I don’t know if you where there then or not. I have been trying to get record on her and trying to find out why she was there. She was buried at Greenwood Cemetery, cause of death was Aiteriosclerotic Heart Disease. Just wondering if you came in contact wither her or not. She was a Black Woman.

  7. I was a patiant at mayview the forensic ward and civil side. thry had helped me come a long way. while my stay there i did see a few shaddows all harmless… i appreciate the help and involvement the staff had with us…

  8. Its ashamed they closed and demolished it… they coulda used it as dorms a school or something

  9. How do I find out about a relative( great-grandfather) that was listed in the 1930 census at Mayview? Why are there not any public records of death?

    • Kathee, I’m also trying to find records from my grandfather who’s name appears on the 1930 census at Mayview. Wondering if you were able to find anything out? I would like to find out why he was admitted , when and when released. Thanks Steve

  10. I am a psychiatric nurse and I work with former Mayview patients. Closing Mayview was the biggest mistake they could ever make. Putting people who are potentially dangerous AND unstable into the community is a terrible decision. I do not know what idiots thought this was a good idea. Some of my patients are extremly violent and unpredicatable they need to be in a state hospital. But if the goverment wants those kind of people on the street then let it be. I understand state hospitals are not for everyone, but some poeople do need it. Also not all patients need long term care, some just need stabalized. Most of the patients sotp taking their meds once they left Mayview and commited suiced or other crimes. WAY TO GO PA!!!!!!!!!!

    • Josh,

      I am a freelance writer and native Pittsburgh resident now living in Colorado and interested in doing some research on Mayview State Hospital. I would love to learn both sides (patient and care-givers) of the story, your thoughts on its closure and effectiveness. I would like to handle this topic in an informative and compassionate manner– what lessons can be learned. If you’re willing to speak with me, please email me at julieluek@gmail.com.

      Thank you so much,

      Julie

  11. I sure love the Environment vary much. I always love the instidtusional interior environment. even the lock wards.
    What I don’t like is most of the staff treatment of the patients. Especially male staff. I feel most of the female staff are pretty good..

  12. I worked at a psych hospital during the wave closings, and our census went up dramatically. My mother also works for the state dept of corrections and she has told me now that Mayview has been closed, alot of the patients who were on the forensics side of the hospital are now residing in special needs units in the state corrections facilites. I agree to a point in reintegrating state hospital patients into the community, but in the same sentance i disagree with it. I know what the transitional care units are like or the residental care facilites that these people have been relocated to. They are no different then how the hospial was with care, the only difference was Mayview had so much land that people were able to go outside and walk around. These facilites that the people were sent to are in bad areas of the city, plauged with crime, and drug trafficing, and the only community relations they now get are a weekly highly supervised outing to the mall or a small court yard. The care and treatment is not much better or beneficial.

  13. My mother was in mayview about 65 years ago , in the mental ward ! I would love to see what she was diagnosed with ! She was there for two years ! How do you find records of past patients ?

    • Did you ever find out how to get patient records? My grandmother was there many years ago.

  14. I grew up around Mayview and played, then partied in that general area as a kid. The tracks were so versatile! There used to be a swimming pool across the street in the 70s. I had to do community service there for a month. My friend’s mother made her volunteer as a candy striper there. No Green Bus!

  15. Was Elizabeth Heselton a patient at this hospital in 1928? She was 7 years old and was epilitic and died at the institution she was in. She was from Township of West Union, Steuben County, N.Y. Her parents were Victor and Hazel Heselton. I would be her 1/2 brother.

  16. Could any one tell me how to find patient records of a family member that was in Mayview in the metal ward 65 yrs ago ? Is there someplace I can call or write too ? I don’t believe she was discharged from the Drs. care , my father couldn’t raise the children by himself so he went and just brought her home ! Then of course no one ever spoke about it !!

  17. My grandparents were put there. Last name Schlegel, Herman and Christine. If so where were they buried? Any help. Thanks

  18. I use to live next to mayview state hospital, when they would escape, our house was the first the came to. My parents and I have some crazy stories about living next to there. It is ashame they tore it down. It doesn’t look the same driving by anymore with out those buildings.

  19. My great aunt…who was certified…stayed at may view…I remember having to visit her as a teenager…I was scared and mortified…mental illness is a serious thing…it’s well established in my family from my moms side…it’s a silent curse…that looms over you the rest of your life…I am not affected…but always weary for my children and there children…because you never know when it will rear its ulgy head…repeating itself…again and again

  20. The buildings are all torn down.. However… And underground tunnel system still exists.. To fine them you have to search the empty foundation remains for the entrances of the tunnel system.. Parts of the them have collapsed half way.. And only way to gain access to the otherside is to find another entrance from another building.. Some of them have been flooding more and more often as the sites storm drain system fails.. Google Maps still uses images from before the demolitions began, use that while exploring to better understand the site itself.

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