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Poultry in the city was once common

ABOVE: St. Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center on Arsenal

We don’t know where our food comes from. Sure, the supermarket.  But where does the supermarket get it? My grandparents and parents had gardens their entire lives.   Before the 1950s industrialization of our food production, people in cities and suburbs raised food.  Large facilities such as the 1869 St. Louis County Lunatic Asylum at 5300 Arsenal, now known as the St. Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center, raised the food they needed.

“On April 23, 1869, St. Louis County Lunatic Asylum opened its doors to 150 mentally ill people. Work began in August 1864. Designed and built by architect William Rumbold, it is the second governmental facility in the state to serve this population. Rumbold’s vision was to recall Imperial Rome, resulting in the cast-iron-dome and plans that called for fine imported marble pillars for the front portico.” (Source)

As a side note remember that prior to 1876 the city was located within the boundaries of St. Louis County.

ABOVE: 1909 Sanborn Map. Source: Univ of MO Digital Library

As you can see when the facility was 40 years old it had a number of buildings behind it to the South. If we look closer we get a better idea of the uses:

ABOVE: 1909 Sanborn Map. Source: Univ of MO Digital Library

There near the center is the hen house and poultry yard, over on the right is the dairy and on the left is the greenhouse.  The pink structure is a brick bread room.

Food production within the city is not a new concept, it is an old one that many are thankfully discovering and reintroducing.  I’m not suggesting we eat only what we can grow ourselves, I just don’t want the “animals belong on the farm” to prevent people from raising some of their food in urban areas.  Thanks to John Palmer for pointing out the hen house on this map to me.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "5 comments" on this Article:

  1. samizdat says:

    As a matter of fact, most of the prisons and mental institution run by states and localities in that era had programs to raise most of their own food. It was seen not only as a cost-cutting measure, but as therapy for the inmates/patients. An isystem which I think would prove a world of good if it were to be reimplemented today.

  2. Will says:

    I love the combination dog house and chapel.

  3. No kidding I used to drive by this building all the time, and always wondered what it was being used for. Until I read your post, I had always assumed it was a retirement home of sorts. Thank you for sharing this fascinating plan…


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