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REPORT of the Trustees of the Michigan Asylum for the Insane.
To the Legislature of the State of Michigan:
In obedience to the requirements of the statute, the Board of Trustees of the Michigan Asylum for the Insane respectfully submit the following Report, for the two years ending November 30th, 1858:
When we assumed the charge of the Institution, in the spring of 1857, we found the center building and the extreme division of the south wing erected and slated. The two-story portions of the wing were built up and ready for roofing. The walls of the first transverse division had been carried up as high as the second floor, and the second transverse division was also ready for slating. In this connection, we would express our entire approval of the plans adopted, and the course pursued by our predecessors. From the knowledge we have been able to acquire in reference to the peculiar architectural requirements of such institutions, we are convinced that the building is very perfectly adapted to the purposes of its erection;
and we find that it loses nothing, when compared with even the more expensive asylums in sister States. The patients' rooms are large and airy; the corridors are spacious and cheerful, and, with but one exception, open out directly to the atmosphere at either end. The sitting and work-rooms are commodious and well lighted. When finished, the facilities for separating the various classes will be very complete. In fine, nothing, as far as the building is concerned, which could contribute to the comfort and restoration of the inmates, seems to have been overlooked.
They have given a thoroughly professional basis to the Institution, by adopting for their rule of action the em bodied experience of the "Association of Medical Superintendents," as expressed in a series of "PROPOSITIONS" on Construction of Asylums, unanimously adopted at a convention held in Philadelphia, May, 1851. By the early ap pointment of a medical officer, "with the view of having the building erected so far under his supervision as to secure his approbation when finished," all capricious modifications and changes in plan and policy have been avoided. Dr. Van Deusen, who received the appointment of Medical Superintendent, has rendered us invaluable assistance in every stage of the work. Though retaining his position. as First Assistant Physician in the N. Y. S. Lunatic Asylum, at Utica, until October last, when directed by the Board to assume his duties here, he has been in frequent correspondence with us, and has visited the State whenever his services were required.
Previous to 1857, the affairs of the Institution at Flint, and of the Asylum for the Insane, were under the direction of a joint Board of Trustees. The Legislature of that year dissolved this connection; and, to give greater permanency to the Board assigned to each Institution, very judiciously arranged their appointment in such manner that the term of office of but a single member should expire at one time. The wisdom of this course is very apparent.
At the same session, "the sum of twenty-five thousand dol lars for the year 1857, and a like sum for 1858," were appropriated for the use of this Institution.
The Board was at once organized according to the provisions of the Act, and the work of construction was urged on as rapidly as the limited appropriation at our disposal would allow. During the succeeding summer and fall, the extreme division of the south wing was plastered, glazed, and partially floored; joists were laid throughout the entire wing; the walls of the second transverse division were carried up, and the entire wing slated. The cupolas were also built, tinned, and put in connection with the foul air ducts. Stairways were erected upon the second and third floors of the extreme division of the wing, and in the attic of the center building.
At this stage of the work, the Institution sustained a very serious loss in the burning of the center building, by which accident nearly one-fifth of the portion erected was laid in ashes. Very fortunately, with the exception of the stairways and a few squares of flooring, but little of the inside work had been finished. The building was ninetysix by seventy-two feet, four stories high, with two octag onal projections in front, and surmounted by a cupola. It contained the officers' apartments, kitchen and diningrooms, the business and medical offices, the general storerooms, and patients' reception rooms. Though not very extensive when compared with the remainder of the Insti tution, it is essential to, and serves the most important purposes in its operations.
At eleven o'clock on Thursday night, Feb. 11th, flames were discovered in the upper stories, at the southwest corner of the building. The alarm was promptly responded to by the fire department, and the citizens generally of Kalamazoo. Little, however, could be done to save the building. Those first upon the ground, found the entire upper portions wrapped in flames, and the cupola
and its attachments fell almost immediately thereafter. The fire-proof division between the wing and the center, which will interpose an effectual barrier to the passage of fire from one to the other, was unfortunately in an unfinished condition, and the danger of the extension of the flames to the wing was at one time imminent. At this juncture, however, the master builder at the Institution, and the mechanics employed with him, stationed themselves upon the roof of the wing, and with the walls of the center building tottering over their heads, remained at their self-assigned post until all danger had passed.
We avail ourselves of this opportunity to express the deep indebtedness of the Institution to their heroism, and our high appreciation of the self-sacrificing and disinterested spirit they exhibited on that occasion. Though each, in the destruction of a valuable set of tools, sustained a very serious loss, there is left to them the pleasing consciousness "of having well performed a manly part."
From a judicial investigation, instituted immediately after the fire, it appeared that every ordinary precaution had been observed, to prevent such an accident. The person to whom was assigned the care of the stoves used by the workmen, had performed his duties in the usual manner; and that the fire could not have been communicated in that manner was made apparent by the fact, that the part of the house in which they were was the last burned. The only stove near the part first discovered to be burning, was in a small room upon the lower floor; and subsequently, in clearing the ruins, rolls of working-plans, which were left lying about this room, were found crushed by the falling walls, but untouched by fire.
The only plausible explanation of the cause of the accident is, that some person had visited the house for the purpose of theft, and that the fire had ignited from a cigar or pipe, or perhaps from the match used in striking a light. This view is sustained by the evidence of two individuals,