A Little Bit of History: Broughton Hospital

Broughton Hospital. Photo: M. Langley.
Broughton Hospital. Photo: M. Langley.

North Carolina is a broad state that offers everything from the beaches to the mountains and lots of interesting things in between. So if you ever decide to hop onto I-40 and head west just for grins and giggles, you might want to stop off at exit 105 in Morganton, North Carolina, and see one of North Carolinas historical masterpieces that is still in operation.

At first glance you might think Broughton Hospital’s main building, known as the “Avery Building” has the architectural structure of a castle. But in all actuality, it is what once was considered a treatment for mental illness. Yes, the building’s structure itself was a medical treatment in the fight against insanity.

Designed by Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride and subsequently called “Kirkbride Buildings,” these immense structures were built on a Linear Plan. There was a big center building, and off to each side of the center building were staggered wards built so that each ward would have free flowing fresh air through it, along with bright sunlight and views of the grounds from all angles. All of those things were considered a cure for mental illness. An interesting fact is that many people used to think that insanity was contagious, hence the need for fresh air. For more information on the Kirkbride Plan or Dr. Kirkbride, go to www.kirkbridebuildings.com.

The hospital is still in operation today, so don’t expect to get a tour of the building’s interior, but you can drive through the grounds.

Back in the early 1900s the Western North Carolina Insane Asylum was the place to go for dance socials on a Saturday night. The first superintendant of Broughton Hospital was Dr. Patrick Livingston Murphy who was from Sampson County NC. He and his wife Bettie and their family lived in the Center building until the good doctor’s death in 1907.

The building has a gothic look to it and many people wonder if it could be haunted. The hospital is over 125 years old and has tunnels running underneath that used to serve as a way to move patients from ward to ward out of the public eye. Several of the old wards are closed off and the empty windows are dark and frightening to some. One nurse who worked there for almost 17 years on the night shift has written two books about paranormal events that took place there while she worked there. She also documented stories that co-workers told her. If you are interested in learning more about this author’s experiences or reading about Broughton Hospital’s hauntings, go to www.hauntedbroughton.com or Amazon.com to obtain a copy. Her first books’ titles are Haunted Broughton, Tales From the Graveyard Shift, and Haunted Broughton, More Tales From the Graveyard Shift.

For now, Broughton Hospital is safe from destruction because it is on the national register of historical buildings. But if you are ever in the Morganton NC area, you owe it to yourself to see the hospital that once defined the meaning of “Moral treatment” in the care of NC’s insane population.

 

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