STATE MENTAL HOSPITAL
The year 1916 was the one of greatest progress in the construction of the State hospital for epileptics, three miles north of Dixon, although it was not until two years later, in 1918, that the institution was ready to receive its first patients. The construciton work was delayed many times, and although it was first planned to have the hospital ready in the fall of 1916, labor shortages, strikes and wartime difficulties caused many postponements in the work.
In August of 1916 the work was halte dwhen the common laborers struck for higher pay. The workmen originally asked for 37 1/2 cents per hour but finally compromised at 33 1/3 cents. In July of 1916, in anticipation of an early opening of the colony, contracts wee awarded to interior furnishers. The Dixon firm of Keyes, Ahrens & Ogden was low in the bidding against 30 major firms including those of Chicago, St. Louis and New York. In June , 1916, when it was hoped that the institution would be ready by October, The Telegraph reported that the work was progressing rapidly. "The Colony," the report stated, "is located on a tract of land which is approximately 1100 acres. It is bordered on one side by the beautiful Rock river, and is so situated that it will have good drainage, an abundance of water, and adequate railroad facilities, the Illinois Central running through the premises, and an extension of the Dixon city electric line being recently built to the road opposite the main entrance of the colony."
Included in the overall plan for the colony were many buildings including such structures as the administration building, general hospital, amusement building, receiving building, juvenile building, library, kitchens, dining room, wards, employes buildings, power house, industrial building, laundry, and managing officer's cottage.
By June 1916, the administration building, six cottages, and two dining rooms had been completed and contracts for four other buildings, the power house, steam tunnels and sewers had been awarded. In the same year, it was estimated that the entire cost of the colony would amount to $1,500,000 "or as much more as the legislature would approve." In the beginning too, it was planned that ther would be accomodations for 1,500 patients. The need for such an institution in Illinois had been felt for a long time, and it was in 1913 that the legislature first approved the construction of such a colony within the state by an act of the general assembly.
In the summer of 1917, the need for the hospital had intensified and hundreds of applications were on file awaiting the opening. In the spring of 1918, when the newspapers were black with headlines about the war, the opening of the hospital made big local news on May 1 when the institution as formally opened. The hospital, on that date, was officially designated as the Illinois Colony for Curable Epileptics. Even at that time the hospital was far from completed, but it was ready to admit the first patients.
Over 400 were received during the summer of that year, although only 50 were taken on the first day. The hospital staff, in the beginning, consisted of 16 persons headed by Dr. H.B. Carriel who had been on the staffs of the Jacksonville and Peoria hospitals before coming to Dixon. With the opening of the colony proper credit was given by the citizens of Dixon to the Hon. W.B. Brinton, who in the winter of 1913,14, did more, probably, than any other one man in having the institution located at Dixon.
The Telegraph May 1, 1951