The Healing Landscape of the Athens Asylum with Dr. Katherine Ziff

Join us for the next installment of the Athens Asylum Sesquicentennial Speaker Series

Thursday, August 23rd at 6:00 PM at the History Center!


The Athens Asylum rose from a landscape on which, two thousand years earlier, Native Americans known as the Adena built burial mounds deeply imbued with religious, emotional, and psychological meaning.

Two millennia later, with bricks made on the site from its land, the Asylum was built with the hope and intention for a healthy therapeutic community dedicated to healing persons with mental illness.

Built to American psychiatry’s nineteenth-century gold standard for mental health treatment, the Kirkbride Plan for moral treatment, our Athens Asylum began with 150 acres of steep hills and meadows high above the Hocking River and eventually encompassed over a thousand acres. A beautiful and highly developed landscape was a central tenet to moral treatment philosophy: groves of trees, attractive and engaging scenery, and handsomely cultivated land functioned as attractive vistas on which patients
could gaze, sites for patient occupation and exercise, a place for farming operations, and (in the case of Athens) a recreation destination for the community.

Continuously altered to meet the needs of both the institution and its community, by mid-twentieth century the Asylum grounds were a regional showcase of parks, lakes, farmland, orchards, and forests.

Katherine Ziff’s talk will take us through the transformations of the Asylum landscape, highlight its historical importance, note its role in community memories, and describe its ecological and educational value as a landscape treasure now in the midst of Ohio University’s campus.

The new paperback edition of Ziff’s book, Asylum on the Hill: History of a Healing Landscape published by Ohio University Press will be available.

This event is free and open to the public thanks to the support of Ohio Humanities and Ohio University. Additional support from BDT Architects and Designers, Athens City Historic Preservation Commission, NAMI, and the Athens County Commissioners