For decades after colonists settled Provo in 1849, the Utah County Court (now called the County Commission) supervised the care of those in the county who suffered from extreme poverty, mental deficiency, or mental illness. Residents of the community submitted bids to the County Court for the care of these people. The justices then assigned the care of these disadvantaged individuals to the lowest bidder.
The Utah Territorial Legislature passed a bill authorizing the establishment of the Utah Territorial Insane Asylum in 1880. This new institution’s board of directors, which included two former members of the Provo City Council, became responsible for choosing a site for the asylum.
Utah, Salt Lake, and Davis counties actively campaigned to become the site of the new institution. In an effort to sway the opinion of the board of directors, Provo City offered the asylum’s board $500 and Utah County offered another $2,000 to help buy the necessary land for the new buildings. With this inducement in mind, the board chose Provo in 1881 as the site for the asylum.
A four-man committee selected the location for the new buildings in the foothills east of the end of Provo’s Center Street where a good spring flowed from the mountain. The money from the city and county paid for the initial 40 acres of land.
There was one major difficulty with the site: no road existed between the location of the future buildings and the east end of Center Street. The Provo City Council negotiated with landowners, bought the right of way, and extended Center Street to the asylum grounds.
Construction workers finished the south wing of the new building in 1885. It housed the first 200 patients. Builders added a middle wing and north wing to the main building later. Although the old building has been replaced, the current hospital stands on the same site. A small museum open to the public now occupies the former residence of the superintendent.