Skagit River Journal
(1900 S-W Fire)
July 1911 photo of 700 block of Metcalf street after the downtown Sedro-Woolley fire. The view is to the southwest. At the top is the location of the present U.S. Post Office. That location was then the site of the original Sedro-Woolley city hall.
of History & Folklore
(bullet) Covering from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Washington counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish, focusing on Sedro-Woolley and Skagit Valley.
(bullet) This page originated in our free pages

(bullet) An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness (bullet) The home pages remain free of any charge. We need donations or subscriptions to continue. (bullet) Please pass on this website link to your family, relatives, friends and clients.
(bullet) Site founded Sept. 1, 2000. Passed 6 million page views, November 2012; passed 800 stories in 2012 — Mailing: (bullet) Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284 where Mortimer Cook started a town & named it Bug
(Click to send email)
or Search site

History of Northern State Hospital,
of Sedro-Woolley, Washington
Part 1: Introduction and overview

Where to purchase the new Mary McGoffin book
Under the Red Roof 100 Years of Northern State Hospital
Update about how to research the cemetery

(Opening Day at Northern State 1912)
      This photo was taken by a photographer named Mason on opening day of Northern Hospital for the Insane on May 25, 1912. The building is the administrative headquarters, which faces south towards Sedro-Woolley. Note the recently cut trees all around and the horses and buggies that brought families out for the celebration. Do you have memories or photos of Northern State? Please email and share them with our readers.

History of Northern State Hospital from 1909 to 1976

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal, ©2003

Caveat emptor
    Over the years since we first started this section, we have become aware that many people are directed here in search of information about the late Dr. Charles H. Jones and lobotomy, after reading William Arnold's book, Shadowland, about Frances Farmer. You may have been deceived by the hype surrounding that book. It is a work of fiction, which has been deceptively promoted as a historical expose of lobotomy. Frances Farmer was never lobotomized at Western State Hospital. The "evidence" that Arnold presents has been conclusively proven to be a hoax.
    I knew Dr. Jones very well, having met him as a child when my father worked for him at Northern State. Before his accidental death ten years ago, he showed me a file of communication with Arnold. Jones provided evidence that no such operation had ever taken place. Jones and others have claimed that Arnold ignored the evidence and created a scenario that could have been right out of any sensationalistic movie that Arnold reviewed. In fact, a movie starring Jessica Lange was made, based on the book. I refer you to the website of Jeffrey Kauffman, who has studied the Frances Farmer case extensively for the past 20 years. He takes Arnold's contentions, one by one, and debunks them. If you were directed here after reading the supposed Farmer autobiography, Will There Really Be a Morning?, by Farmer's friend Jeanira Ratcliff, you need to know that the book was not really Farmer's story. As Ratcliff has candidly admitted, she wrote the book in a sensationalistic way in hopes of a movie contract. Kauffman sums up the confusion with this paragraph:
    "Frances Farmer was undoubtedly a deeply troubled woman who suffered greatly in her life. The relatively primitive conditions of the state institution system, as well as the equally primitive therapies used in those days, no doubt exacerbated rather than helped her condition, as Frances herself stated more than once. However, sensationalizing and "fictionalizing" what this brave woman went through not only does a disservice to her memory, marginalizing her very real tribulations, it also prevents us from objectively understanding Frances' trials in their proper historical context. A clear-headed, fact-based approach is the only way we can assure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated and that Frances' valiant struggle to maintain mental and emotional equilibrium stands as an inspiring example for those similarly afflicted."
      One last caveat: we know nothing about ghosts or such at Northern State, no more than what we heard as myths at school and on the playground. Some very bad offenses were committed at the hospital, some by well-meaning people, some by people who acted like sadists. My father, well aware of the negative side of the hospital, insisted, however, that there were no bodies stowed away in tunnels. He would have told mother or me.

      [Update 2012: Sept. 13 & 15. This is the year that Sedro-Woolley celebrates two major anniversaries including the centennial of the opening of Northern State Hospital. The centennial celebration of the Hospital features a Tour and Celebration free to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sept. 15, at the campus on 24909 Hub drive. The festivities will include tours, a historical video, displays and book signings. For information, call 360 856-3162. There will be a $20 per person Glimpse of the Past Scholarship fundraiser kicking off the celebration, from 4:30-7:30 Sept. 13, including a dinner and tour and auction by Cascades Job Corps. See our world famous series on the History of the Hospital, which has been read by more than 50,000 web visitors. And author Mary McGoffin's will sign her book, Under the Red Roof, 100 years Northern State Hospital at the Sept. 13 open house.
    For those who want to purchase Mary McGoffin's exciting new book, Under the Red Roof 100 years Northern State Hospital, we suggest that you stop by the Sedro-Woolley Museum, which has copies for sale, as does the Sedro-Woolley Senior Center. We also want to dedicate this, the most-read story in our site history, to Dan Singleton, a prince among men. He was in charge of the facilities there, with the very able assistance of Judy Holmes, and McGoffin quoted him about his vow, a mission statement: "He regretted the demolition of buildings over the last two decades and vowed that no more would go down on his watch." He kept that promise until he died of complications from a heart attack in 2009 — much too young.
      We had a great tour of Northern State on one of the hottest days of Summer 2011. While there we discovered good news for those seeking records of their loved ones. Assemble your known information and your question and email it to: Judy Torfin. She notes that she is assembling a mini-museum of photos and memorabilia and she encourages those with old photos to let her scan them for the record.

      [Update 2005: At the end of this story, you will find links to the four stories in this most popular section on our site, and links to two other associated stories, including recently discovered information about the homesteader whose land formed the nucleus of the hospital campus. You will also find an explanation of the terms, "Bug" and "Bughouse," which have confused some readers. This section has evolved over five years and we welcome documents and photo scans that will help people learn more about the institution, the patients and the people who worked there from 1909-76.]

Introduction to the history
of Northern State Hospital
      Old timers used to say that Sedro-Woolley's economy in the first half of the 20th century sat on a four-legged stool. The first leg was the logging industry, the second was agriculture, the third was Skagit Steel, and the fourth was Northern State Hospital, four miles northeast of town.
      In the first decade of this century, Washington state had two hospitals for the criminally insane, one at Fort Steilacoom near the state capitol and another at Medical Lake in Spokane County. Sedro-Woolley had just recovered from the Financial Panic of 1893 and the more visionary citizens realized that they needed to diversify the town's industry base.
      Harry L. Devin recalled in 1939 that a state commission was appointed in 1909 to select a site in the north part of the state for a hospital for harmless insane and that the Commercial Club of Sedro-Woolley soon secured options on an 800-acre site. State Senator Emerson Hammer, attorney Charles Gable and Skiyou farmer James M. Harrison lobbied successfully to have the state purchase for $75,000 a site northeast of town and east of what was called Duke's Hill and the state commission accepted it on Sept. 13, 1909. The first building opened in the fall of 1910 for both planning and administration as well as construction and the first doctor in charge was W. E. Cass. The first 200 patients were transferred, apparently from Steilacoom, in December 1912 through January 1913.
      Most of the people in my generation and generations before who grew up here referred to the hospital as the "Bughouse." Some have interpreted that as a derogatory term and many who write letters inquiring about the hospital history assume that the term was created especially for Northern state. Actually, the word bughouse was coined before the hospital was ever opened. It was an accepted term for an asylum by the time the 1913 Webster's Dictionary was published. When calling the hospital the bughouse for decades, people who lived here were not necessarily making fun of it. In fact, when you talk to local people who met the inmates and worked around them, they often tell stories of how people were committed there who could easily live outside nowadays. Many of my classmates and I played at the hospital as children and patients there always enjoyed our visits. I remember that my dad and many people he worked with there for nearly 25 years used the term bughouse affectionately.
      Many people tell stories of menopausal women who were committed merely because they became "hysterical" in the Freudian sense and their husbands then had them committed, manipulating the system of that time. Regardless of how people felt about the hospital, almost everyone who lived here from 1909-73 benefited from the industry and payroll that grew up around it.
      An eastern extension of the Northern Pacific tracks branched off from the main north-south line just north of town towards Northern State. The branch line was originally laid for construction trains and later used for supplying the hospital, especially for supplying coal for the boilers. After pioneer Fred Kiens's death in 1911, Fred's son Frank provided gravel from the old Kiens mine site, near the wye of the railroad, for construction of roads and buildings at the new hospital. Realtors Harry L. Devin and Charles J. Wicker of Skagit Realty in Sedro-Woolley sold the land to the state, in one of their most lucrative early land sales, after promoting the beautiful countryside. That bucolic, tranquil setting was a major factor in the state's decision to locate here.
      We recently discovered an obscure little obituary in the May 20, 1921, Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times that answers a question never answered before about the hospital campus itself and also illustrates why we ask readers especially share the obituaries in their family scrapbooks. That month a Mr. T. Hansen died in Puyallup. He came to the Sedro area in the mid-1880s when the town was a mere handful of shacks around Mortimer Cook's wharf and store. The article noted that Benson creek in the Skiyou area was renamed in Hansen's honor and that he homesteaded most of the original 600 acres that became Northern State. My father, Victor Bourasaw, especially loved the English walnut trees on the grounds when he was a gardener there and I was pleased to learn that Hansen planted them as part of his original orchard on the hill.
      On May 27, 1912, the site opened with an administration building and a scattering of wards, and eventually was named Northern State Hospital. Originally planned as a farm colony, it eventually spread out over 1,200 acres, and was known for its humane practices during times when similar state institutions were described as "snake pits." The permanent buildings were designed in the Spanish Revival style and were the most striking in the county when the campus was completed in the 1930s. Patients received valuable vocational training on the farm, dairy, printing plant, greenhouse and other branches that made the hospital largely self-sufficient. The campus acreage has always been recognized as one of the most beautiful hospital sites in the country.
      The major creative coup in the early days was a commission included in the planning costs for Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and his half-brother, John C. Olmsted, to design the initial grounds around the hospital buildings. Their father, F.L. Sr., gained fame for designing Central Park in New York City in 1858 and went on to design parks from coast to coast that wowed observers from around the world. He was later asked to design the plat for the new town of Tacoma when Northern Pacific chose it as a terminus in 1873. His plan was a revolutionary layout of curved streets that complemented the terrain. NP officials promptly the drawings in the trash and platted the town on a north-south axis as precise and linear as train plans. Later, Olmsted's sons expanded their market out to Seattle, where they designed parks along Lake Washington that are still stunning today. Seattle loved one-upping Tacoma one more time. Their last project before Northern State was designing Fairhaven Park in 1910 for C.X. Larrabee, where the brothers might have caught the eye of the hospital architect. A little-known fact, shared with me by such authorities the late Albert Bingham and the late Percy "Puss" Stendal, is that John C. Olmsted was responsible for the original design of Bingham Park at the corner of Cook Road and Borseth Street, which he apparently offered to help cinch the deal for Northern State. McGoffin's Under the Red Roof book has more details about the Olmsteds, including the explanation that John designed Northern State with the hospital in mind where his father was confined in later years, just one of the many facts from Mary's extensive research and interviews.

Northern Hospital for the Insane, 1912

Update 2006: Many people have written to us, seeking information about their relatives who died while patients at Northern State Hospital. Until now we had no answer for them. We are pleased to announce that Jon Schleiff, an employee at NSH before its closing, was assigned to locate the cemetery plots and he has continued this process for the last two decades. While researching, he found a damaged map of the original layout. He then checked the death census and matched the initials on the map. You may contact Mr. Schlieff directly at

      In a 1912 letter to the state Board of Control, A. H. McLeish, the initial superintendent at the Northern Hospital for the Insane, noted that the hospital then housed 113 patients, 101 of whom arrived in 1910-11 when this location was still a branch of Western in Steilacoom. McLeish's annual salary was $4,000, the one other M.D. made $2,500, the cook made $900 and attendants made either $480 or $600. The construction superintendent, J. B. Warrack, was paid $2,400 annually and his skilled laborers made $3 per day, a good wage back then. McLeish noted that the death ratio of less than three percent of the patients annually was very low. The initial patients were all male and occupational therapy was a high priority. Many patients worked at tasks of "gardening to slashing, making posts, shingle-bolts, etc — in fact, all kinds of labor connected with the clearing up of the place; and it is evident from the appearance of the men that this outdoor life is conducive to good health."
      The report noted that the temporary buildings blew down in a January 1911 storm. They were immediately rebuilt and by November 1912, these additional buildings were constructed: four one-story cottages, a kitchen-bakery, concrete horse barn, machine shop, administration building and a combination chapel, morgue and crematory. McLeish asked for four more cottages and reported that the "fenestra steel windows" were much more satisfactory than ones with steel bars were. His concern for the patients was evident as he also requested $30,000 for a permanent kitchen-bakery and refrigerated storage for fresh food until the farm and dairy could produce enough on their own.
      His report also called for a crematorium for remains of patients who did not have families. We do not know whether this was built but we know that a cemetery was dedicated on acreage at the southeast corner near present Hwy 20 and Helmick road. In the 1980s, ten years after the hospital's closure, the principals at Portal, a rehabilitation program on the old campus, discovered that the old cemetery was not being maintained. Gravestones had been stolen or moved and many plaques had been nailed to neighbors' fences. Dave Evans, Portal director, organized a cemetery committee that included Bob Lemley, Dona Van Voorst, Mel Walton, Angelyn Shafer, Barbara Thompson and Cookson Beecher, among others. Their dedication to this ongoing project is exemplary.
      The report also noted that Northern Pacific extended a railroad spur to the hospital power plant and the company extended the same shipping rate as if the bay was in Sedro-Woolley. The hospital was officially designated by NP as Norlum. Noting that "milk is a most essential article of diet around a hospital for the insane," McLeish asked for $1,500 to expand the small dairy herd. Finally, requests were made for roughly 400 more acres "to protect our water system from pollution" around the creek that ran through the property; the estimated cost was $50 per acre. McLeish did not receive most of his wishes. His fortunes took a dive when Republican Marion E. Hay, who dedicated Northern State in 1912, was replaced by Democrat Ernest Lister after the November 1912 state election. The report was written on November 1. The four cottages were authorized in the summer of 1913 but an interim superintendent, Dr. W.E. Cass, was in charge by then.

Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos
(Opening Day 1912 Closeup)
(Construction 1920s)
(Administration Building Opening Day)
Far left: This is a closeup view of the Administration Building on opening day. Center: This is a view of the construction during the 1920s. Photo from the University of Washington Library Archives Division. Right: The early buildings were designed in the Spanish Revival Style.

Dr. Doughty settles in for a long reign
    Any time, any amount, please help build our travel and research fund for what promises to be a very busy 2011, traveling to mine resources from California to Washington and maybe beyond. Depth of research determined by the level of aid from readers. Because of our recent illness, our research fund is completely bare. See many examples of how you can aid our project and help us continue for another ten years. And subscriptions to our optional Subscribers Online Magazine (launched 2000) by donation too. Thank you.

We recently visited our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, which is based in Birdsview, just a short walk away from the Royal family's famous Stumpranch, and is your source for the finest down comforters, pillows, featherbeds andduvet covers and bed linens. Order directly from their website and learn more about this intriguing local business.

      Dr. James Winfield Doughty took charge on Jan. 13, 1914. Doughty was a Maine Yankee with a patrician bearing. At age 40 he had an impeccable medical record along with a reputation as a champion archer and a musician. Doughty was born in Brunswick, Maine, where his father supervised a cotton mill and spinning loom after fighting in the civil war. As a child Doughty played many musical instruments, including e-flat cornet, trombone, baritone and alto saxophone. He had deep Yankee roots; both sides of his family emigrated to Maine 1738. As a boy he worked hard on his uncle's farm at Durham every summer and when he graduated he took the challenge of sailing on a four-masted schooner from Maine to Virginia.
      The next six to seven years were all study though as he attended Bowdoin college in his hometown and then graduated from the noted medical school there. He interned at Boston City Hospital and then became a country GP at Parker's Head, Maine, where he stayed for ten years. While living in Parker's Head, he married Alice Manson in 1902. She was the daughter of a sea captain who had sailed ships around the world nine times over 40 years. Doughty and his father-in-law got along famously.

(Dr. Doughty)
Dr. James W. Doughty

      Doughty developed his social consciousness further by administering to a colony of half-breeds who lived on Maligar Island in Casco Bay, nearby his practice. That island was originally unclaimed by the British, having been left out of the Falmouth and Georgetown grants. It was still a no-man's land where natives lived in rude huts. The squalor and lack of sanitation led to an outbreak of measles to which the natives were not immune. As the nearest doctor, Doughty felt a duty to attend them. He solved their problem by convincing the state and surrounding counties to pay for resettling the families, whereupon the island was sold to a New York syndicate for a summer resort. We do not know how the transplanted islanders felt about the forced move, nor do we know if the country doctor invested in the syndicate.
      In 1906 he moved to Tacoma to work for six months as an assistant to the director at the old Fannie Paddock hospital, which later became Tacoma General. He loved it here and a year later he and his wife sailed away from Boston for good. He took an appointment to become assistant superintendent to Dr. A.B. Calhoun at Western State Hospital. He stayed there for six years before being chosen for Northern State. While at Steilacoom he became fascinated with the sport of archery. Applying the same dedication from his profession, he shot against the best of opponents, including Col. Will H. Thompson, who was stationed nearby and who won the U.S. archery championship nine times. Doughty eventually went to the nationals himself and won the U.S. title after competing against nine ex-champions.
      While at Northern State, Doughty succeeded in implementing new ideas that were changing the often misguided and exploitative care of mental patients nationwide. During World War I he was chosen to serve on Governor Lister's state Medical Advisory Board along with legendary Dr. H.E. Cleveland of Burlington. Security became a concern during his term when the first murder of one patient by another occurred in February 1922. During the '20s Doughty became a local fixture and, after the death of his wife in 1924, he became very active in Rotary, the Masonic lodge, the Odd Fellows lodge and the American Medical Association. He had grand plans for the hospital but they came to a screeching halt after the Crash of 1929. After Republican governor Roland Hartley was reelected in 1928 he decided to clean house at state institutions. Dr. Doughty finally got the ax in 1930 and he moved to King County where he set up private practice again.

(Nurses Dorm)
One of the nurses' dorms that still stands. Photo by Jeanie Packer. We believe this is Trevennen Hall, which stands right by where the old railroad spur from Sedro-Woolley terminated. You can find more photos of that and similar dormitories, and more than a dozen other buildings in the new book, Under the Red Roof

      Democrat Clarence D. Martin took office as governor in 1933 and in September of the next year Doughty was re-appointed at Northern State. He oversaw construction that had started and stopped in 1933 after building new wards, the last housing construction for 20 years. In 1936, as Washington began recovering from the Great Depression, he successfully pushed a program whereby voters authorized $200,000 in bonds for a clinical center. He maintained Northern State as the most modern of the three state institutions and instituted student nurse training on campus.
      By 1945, Doughty was slowing down in his early 70s and he was replaced as superintendent by Dr. Clifford Halvorsen. As World War II came to an end, the Washington legislature freed up funds for an expansion program, but we know very little about Halvorsen's tenure. Meanwhile, a young surgeon was drawing attention down at Steilacoom. Dr. Charles H. Jones assisted Dr. Walter Freeman in the radical new surgery called a transorbital lobotomy. Their surgery would become famous and controversial partially because a very famous patient was rumored to have had a lobotomy there, the actress Frances Farmer. Her operation, however, turned out to be a myth. By 1949, Jones's star was rising and he became the natural replacement for Doughty on Jan. 1, 1950.

Dr. Charles H. Jones and Northern State
      One of Dr. Jones's daughters, Holly Jones Thurman recently wrote to us and gave us more background on her father's life. He was a Washington native, born in Centralia in 1917. He graduated from both the University of Washington and the University of Oregon Medical School. He started his psychiatric training after medical school while he served in the U.S. Army in World War II. He eventually became a Colonel in the Army Reserves much later. As mental hospitals modernized after the war, he moved to the forefront of enlightened psychiatric professionals.
      In a series of articles in 1953, the Courier-Times newspaper described the hospital in detail. At that time there were 2,200 patients; 415 employees, including 200 attendants; and 12 graduate nurses. The patients were housed in 33 wards and Jones was already telling the legislature that the buildings were filled to capacity. There were 13 other buildings in all. Patients were sent there from the eight northwestern counties: Skagit, Whatcom, Snohomish, King, Jefferson, San Juan, Clallam and Island.

Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos
(Aerial view 1949)
(Interior of Machine Shop)
(Hub building)
Far left: This aerial view of the Northern State campus was featured in a 1949 Seattle Times rotogravure section. Center: The machine shop is just one of many buildings that were used to teach patients trades. Photo by Jeanie Packer. Right: The Hub building was a longtime favorite of employees. This photo was taken by Barbara Halliday in 2000.

      The expanded acreage included 400+ acres for the farm and vegetable gardens, 440 for pasture and wood lots and 200+ in rocky buttes and hills. At the center were 40 acres of immaculately kept lawns and flower gardens. On a personal note, I remember that time well because spent many hours there in the afternoons after school. My father, Victor Bourasaw, worked on the landscaping crew with Jim Evans and Fern Shannon for 20 years. They worked out of a beautiful greenhouse that was torn down more than 25 years ago. Built under Doughty's direction in 1948, it's main feature was a banana plant in the entryway, the smells of which are still familiar to me. They supplied fresh flowers and plants for all the wards, including hundreds of orchids and azaleas in the west wing. My dad supervised one of many crews of patients who worked on the grounds, hundreds in all at all the different departments that made the hospital almost an island of its own. Occupational Therapy was stepped up even more under Jones, centering on farm work, woodworking, printing, shoe repair, cabinet work, rug weaving, mattress making and handicrafts, among others. Ed Locken was the manager.
      Visitors noted how much more modern Northern State was than the other two state hospitals. They remarked that the buildings were well ventilated and lit and that the newer wards had their own recreational halls and dining rooms. Also of note were the library and a recreational program that included movies, dances, concerts and baseball games. Jones explained that there were 650 new patients per year on average, 400-plus were discharged and roughly 200 died or were transferred.

(Dairy Barn)
The dairy barn as it was being dismantled in the late 1990s. Photo by Frank Varga of the Skagit Valley Herald.

      The poultry farm was also sizable, supplying 36,798 pounds of dressed hens and fryers. Jones was determined that enough eggs be produced to allow at least one per patient per day. To that end, 139,207 eggs were laid that year. The pig farm produced 258,737 pounds of dressed pork and 23,779 of cured hams. Crops were also plentiful: fresh fruit, 185,068 pounds; berries, 61,046; potatoes 1.1 million; kitchen vegetables, 1.1 million. The farm also produced 324 tons of hay for the animals as well as 345 tons of silage in a new pit silo. A summer cannery processed the fruits and vegetables from the hospital farms as well as those from donated produce from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
      Jones completed construction of a modern kitchen and dining room that cost $300,000 and produced food for 2,500 people daily. The bakery alone supplied 550 loaves a day. David Morriss was the kitchen manager then, replacing Mrs. Bella Robb, who retired after 35 years. That wasn't his only financial coup in those '50s glory years. After providing modern amenities for the patients, he concentrated on upgrading the farm, which was the nucleus that made the hospital almost self-sustaining. He submitted proposals that zoomed through the state appropriations committees. Noting the weather's effect on the herd, he obtained funds for sheltered feeding facilities. Another project was clearing additional upland areas north of the hospital and timber sales provided revenue to offset the cost. Teams of patients felled trees for the hospital sawmill, cut cordwood and fashioned cedar fence posts in the hospital wood shop. Jones also implemented new farming practices including a $5,000 overhead irrigation system that watered 96 acres at a time.
      Farm manager Bob Henry was duly proud of the dairy herd that averaged 178 purebred Holsteins, the largest milking herd in the county at the time. In 1952 they produced 2.3 million pounds of whole-pasteurized milk. Lester LeCompte was herdsman and he kept 90 cows fresh all the time. A beef herd accounted for 24,118 pounds of meat and 6,026 pounds of veal for the kitchens. One of the articles notes that two sires had just arrived to become kings of the bovine harem.

Lunch Room Is Being Built At State Hospital, Fred Gage, New Canteen Head, in Charge
[Old-Timers: Do you remember the Hub?]

Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, Dec. 6, 1945
    Plans for an extensive building program with many changes and additions at the Northern State hospital are being considered, according to Dr. Clifford Halvorsen, the new superintendent. Already a big lunch room is being constructed in the basement of the chapel building, where the women's sewing room was formerly located. This is the first step in an ambitious program. Dr. J. W. Robinson, assistant supervisor of state institutions, who is here from Olympia, was much pleased with the progress of the improvements, he said.
    Fred Gage, former storekeeper at the Western State Custodial school at Buckley, who is now in charge of the canteen at the Northern State hospital, is planning the work on the new lunch room, which is to be a social gathering place for both employees and patients, similar to those in other state institutions.
    There will be a big lunch counter and three tables and a small kitchen and cakes and pies and sandwiches, coffee, soft drinks and regular soda fountain service will be maintained. There will be candy, cosmetics, and a large variety of things on sale and the big room will be a place for people at the hospital to drop in for a cup of coffee, sandwich or a purchase of some of the big stock of supplies. As Dr. Halvorsen explained, it is expected to make for institutional betterment, and be a sort of social headquarters. There will be one paid employee and the others will be patients. [The rest of the story is within that issue and we do not have access to it.]

      Back at the hospital itself, Jones intensified resident training so that physicians would observe mental illness realistically. He incorporated modern ideas such as remodeling the admission area so that a patient felt safe and secure when they entered instead of feeling like an inmate. Do not imagine the hospital as a rose garden then, but for his time, Jones was very visionary. When he realized that the water supply was deteriorating, he had a crew dig new wells to provide drinking and bathing water that was free of the rust that plagued so many home systems from that area through the upper Skagit River region. Finally, he insisted on modern surgery and clinical labs. His design allowed for special training of large groups of mental-health professionals. An entire dorm building near the present security hut was dedicated to student-nurse housing. These nurses learned how medical practice should be, even if they were sent to less-modern hospitals. This influx of young nurses inspired many young local men to apply to be attendants, including my brother, Jerry, and his irascible friend, David Seay.
      The newspaper accounts in this section are supplemented by personal memories. My father became a close friend of Dr. Jones in the 1950s after his crew was chosen to maintain the grounds of the superintendent's mansion. You wouldn't know it today, but 50 years ago there was a stand of rhododendrons along the drive up to the mansion that was a Mecca for rhody-lovers all over the country. On the afternoons that my mother wasn't working at the old Pictsweet canary on the Mount Vernon revetment, we would drive up to Northern State to pick up dad. A whistle blew at 4:30. If we picked Dad up at the mansion, the whistle sometimes signaled cocktail time. Doc Jones was always fascinated with my dad's stories from when he was at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Maybe the first historical seeds of this project were sown as I sat at the table on the veranda and heard the Doc as he told my dad of his plans.
      Although he remained controversial about his role in lobotomy surgery, Doc Jones made Northern State one of the most respected hospitals of its kind in the country. For 62 years, Northern State was a key local payroll until it closed in 1973 because of state budget cutbacks. Many old timers here still cringe at the mention of then-governor Dan Evans, the most visible politician to blame for the decision. Doc Jones left the hospital administration in 1960, moving to a new position in Rhode Island and he later worked for seven years for the Joint Commission, a private entity not affiliated with the government, to oversee hospital accreditation in most of the western states.
      The Northwest lured him and wife back here in the late 1970s, however, and he bought Herb's Skyline Restaurant just outside Anacortes. Still taking assignments, he semi-retired in the late 1980s and spent hours in his garden. He often shared details with me about his beloved rhododendrons and wondered how my dad would have advised him about planting or pruning them. Above all, he regaled us all with tales, many with tongue in cheek and just moments away from a hearty laugh. I can recall many Rotary meetings where he would stand up and say: "Hey, this is way too serious. Did I tell you about . . ." He was one of the funniest men I have ever known. We lost him in 1993 when he fell off a ladder while pruning one of his favorite trees.
      When I visit the grounds these days, I like to ride my bike around the area that is still in use and only occasionally ride past the weeds that cover the site of the old superintendent's mansion and the dozens of rhododendrons that my father planted with his crews. Or at least, I used to ride freely around there, but now security is very tight on the grounds and the guards frown on free roaming, to say the least. A few of the early structures stand and are maintained by a crew that respect them. I recently met a gardener there who lovingly maintains the concrete planting tables that are the only remnants of the beautiful greenhouse that supplied fresh-cut flowers and potted plants to brighten up the wards.
      More than 25 years ago the greenhouse itself was dismantled and trucked down to the state capitol gardens in Olympia along with the banana plant. I especially miss those thousands of glass panes, some of which were glass plate negatives from the collection of Sedro-Woolley's favorite-son photographer, Darius Kinsey, and the collections of other photographers. We try to ignore the God-awful "modern" structures that were tacked onto the complex in the '60s. If you listen really close, you can almost hear the clatter of pans in the old chow hall and the laughter and fellowship of the employees who treated each other like family. In 2001, a white-knuckle period ensued as the federal government debated about moving Job Corps, the current anchor tenant of the old hospital grounds. This program uses many of the buildings that were formerly used to train patients in various vocations to teach trades to at-risk youths. The campus was once suggested as a new site for the high school, but a program is gathering momentum under the leadership of Louis Requa to provide a unique recreation center for the county. The former is doubtful but the latter is hopeful.
      Bring back the banana plant.

A note about the terms, Bug and Bughouse:
      A reader occasionally confuses our references to the original town of Bug, which became Sedro, and the slang term, Bughouse, that was widely used for Northern State Hospital during its 67 years on the hill and is still used by many people. Bug and Bughouse have no connection as far as the hospital. We call our introduction to Sedro-Woolley, From Bug to the Bughouse, because the two events are sort of bookends for study of the first 50 years of settlement here. Mortimer Cook founded his town of Bug in 1884, the year of the first major wave of migration to this area by people from around the country and the world. And by the early days of the Depression in the 1930s, Northern State Hospital was one of the major three industries that provided vital payrolls for people living here. We would be just as wrong to censor or ignore the use of the word, Bughouse, as we would be to make fun of the patients. The slang term, bughouse, became an accepted synonym for an asylum years before the hospital was ever built. We have received many letters from readers who have heard that The Bughouse was named because of Mortimer Cook's town name. We made clear in several stories that this is a misconception. And we have helped promote a memorial to the patients who died there, after years of neglect of the cemetery, which my father's crew tried to keep mowed and presentable. It is truly a shame that, when the hospital closed, records of people who resided there or who were cremated or buried there were scattered to the winds. We often have to tell people who inquire that we have no idea how to find records of their ancestors or family members who lived or died there. But we will continue to feature stories about the institution and the patients, and the workers there who respected them.

Links, background reading and sources

Story posted on Sept. 24, 2001, last updated Jan. 30, 2007, Oct. 6, 2009, July 6, 2011, and Aug. 28, 2012
Please report any broken links so we can update them

Getting lost trying to navigate
or find stories on our site?
Read how to sort through our 700-plus stories.

See this Journal Timeline website of local, state, national, international events for years of the pioneer period.
Return to the new-domain home page
Links for portals to subjects and towns
Newest photo features
Search entire site
Our sometimes monthly column, Puget Sound Mail
Comments or ?s about this story? Sign into our Guestbook
(bullet) See this Journal Timeline website of local, state, national, international events for years of the pioneer period.
(bullet) Did you enjoy this story? Remember, as with all our features, this story is a draft and will evolve as we discover more information and photos. This process continues as we compile and collaborate on books about Northwest history. Can you help? And also remember; we welcome correction, criticism and additions to the record.
(bullet) Please report any broken links or files that do not open and we will send you the correct link. With more than 700 features, we depend on your report. Thank you.
(bullet) Read about how you can order CDs that include our photo features from the first ten years of our Subscribers Edition. Perfect for gifts. Will be completed in Fall of 2013.

You can click the donation button to contribute to the rising costs of this site. See many examples of how you can aid our project and help us continue for another ten years. You can also subscribe to our optional Subscribers-Paid Journal magazine online, which has entered its 12th year with exclusive stories, in-depth research and photos that are shared with our subscribers first. You can go here to read the preview edition to see examples of our in-depth research or read how and why to subscribe. Our research trips in 2013-14 depend on this income.
You can read the history websites about our prime sponsors
Would you like information about how to join them in advertising? We cannot emphasize how we need such support for our accelerated research journeys of 2013-14 for books and many more stories.

(bullet) We are advertising for sale by readers, two fine historical books. The first is Theodore Winthrop's The Canoe and the Saddle, NY, American Publishers (c. Ticknor & Fields, 1862), a second edition, published circa 1890. And the four-volume set of The History of Washington by Lancaster Pollard and Lloyd Spencer, 1937. Please inquire by email if you want more details or want to make an offer. Also inquire about other offerings or if you request a specific book.
(bullet) Our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, is based in Birdsview, just a short walk away from the Royal family's famous Stumpranch, and is your source for the finest down comforters, pillows, featherbeds & duvet covers and bed linens. Order directly from their website and learn more about this intriguing local business.
(bullet) Oliver-Hammer Clothes Shop at 817 Metcalf Street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 88 years.
(bullet) Peace and quiet at the Alpine RV Park, just north of Marblemount on Hwy 20, day, week or month, perfect for hunting or fishing
Park your RV or pitch a tent by the Skagit River, just a short drive from Winthrop or Sedro-Woolley
(bullet) Check out Sedro-Woolley First section for links to all stories and reasons to shop here first
or make this your destination on your visit or vacation.
(bullet) Are you looking to buy or sell a historic property, business or residence?
We may be able to assist. Email us for details.

Looking for something special on our site? Enter name, town or subject, then press "Find" Search this site powered by FreeFind
    Did you find what you were seeking? We have helped many people find individual names or places, so email if you have any difficulty.
    Tip: Put quotation marks around a specific name or item of two words or more, and then experiment with different combinations of the words without quote marks. We are currently researching some of the names most recently searched for — check the list here. Maybe you have searched for one of them?
Please sign our guestbook so our readers will know where you found out about us, or share something you know about the Skagit River or your memories or those of your family. Share your reactions or suggestions or comment on our Journal. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to visit our site. View and sign guestbook here
Email us at:
(Click to send email)
Mail copies/documents to Street address: Skagit River Journal, 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, WA, 98284.

var _gaq = _gaq || []; _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-33739537-1']); _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']); (function() { var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true; ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + ''; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s); })();