Oregon State Hospital

Client: Oregon Department of Human Services
Salem, Oregon


The Oregon State Hospital is the oldest continually operating mental health institution on the West Coast. The 1883 building, originally known as the Oregon Insane Asylum, was designed by William Boothby and was based on the writings of Dr. Thomas Kirkbride. The Oregon State Hospital expanded rapidly until its peak in 1958 when it encompassed 135 acres and over 70 buildings. After that time, the patient population decreased as advanced treatments and group homes became viable alternatives for institutionalization.  Many of the buildings were no longer used and had fallen into a state of disrepair.  The Oregon State Hospital also served as the location for the film "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Planning Work


The State of Oregon decided to build a new mental health hospital on the site of the existing hospital.

A local group of preservationists rushed to complete a National Register District Nomination for the site.  We were brought onto the project to respond to their concerns about losing the historic buildings. 


We did our own evaluation of the National Register Nomination and suggested revisions based on our additional research.  After we presented this information to SHPO, the preparers made many of our suggested revisions.

In order to understand the hospital, we prepared a cultural resources report for the client and the design team.  In it we outlined the different time periods of development, the historic functional areas of the site, and the character defining features of the district.  We recommended that each time period, historic function and key district features be retained and/or restored.

Preservation Work


Because of the site contrasts, many of the historic buildings had to be demolished to make room for the new hospital. However several key buildings were saved. 


The original 1883 portion of the J building was restored for hospital use.  The morgue, which served not only the hospital but also the adjacent penitentiary, was moved to a new location and restored.  The maintenance building was restored because it met the current needs well and was in relatively good condition. The park at the main entrance to the hospital was restored.  One of the greenhouses was carefully disassembled and stored for future reassembly on the site.  All of the associated houses were retained and received minor repairs.  All of the structures north of Center Street were retained.

Completed while at Architectural Resources Group
Team project with HOK and SRG Partnership