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New Book — St. Louis State Hospital: A 150-Year Journey Toward Hope by Amanda Hunyar

April 19, 2019 Books, Featured, History/Preservation No Comments

In my 28+ years in St. Louis I’ve been in many buildings that interest me. One I haven’t seen inside of is the St. Louis State Hospital on Arsenal. It and the grounds have changed considerably in my decades here.

A few hardcover book from local publisher Reedy Press gives readers a greater understanding:

While the St. Louis State Hospital dome has loomed over the St. Louis skyline for 150 years, the goings-on behind the closed doors of this mysterious complex of South City buildings has been the subject of speculation and curiosity for generations. This fascinating book takes readers beyond the gates on Arsenal and into an institution’s unique history.

It was through those gates in 1869 that 127 patients suffering from mental illnesses would pass to seek recovery through compassionate care. This richly illustrated volume presents their stories through a timeline of the hospital’s history and gives an understanding of what life was like for these vulnerable, often poor and disenfranchised patients. Included are photos and anecdotes of weekly dances in the fifth-floor ballroom, card game parties, and long walks to newly opened Tower Grove Park. Straight from the carefully curated archives are the records of traditional lobotomies, experimental drug therapies, and electric shock—all prevalent treatments of their time.

Author Amanda Hunyar takes readers behind the scenes and through the history of the iconic building with a complex tale to tell. Once the third largest hospital in St. Louis, and a place of healing and hope for thousands, its stories from generations past are finally ready to be shared. Even those with merely a passing understanding of its buildings can now come to appreciate its importance in the history of our region. (Reedy Press)

This new book is by Amanda Hunyar. I’ve loved flipping through the photo-filled pages.

— Steve Patterson


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