A Mental Health “Moat” On Pine Street


William Strickland's 1811 engraving of the Pennsylvania Hospital. | via Wikimedia

William Strickland’s 1811 engraving of the Pennsylvania Hospital | Image: Wiki Commons

  • On the 800 block of Pine Street, WHYY’s Elana Gordon tours the grounds and buildings of the Pennsylvania Hospital, and “tells an often over-looked story about the development of mental healthcare in the United States, and the approaches that were shaped right here in this hospital”—including many a novel and useless treatment from Founding Father Benjamin Rush. Its immaculately kept lawn, broad and genteel, easily commands the attention of passersby. Yet, not so for its brick-lined moat, where air, light, and the piercing cold could reach the “lunatics” confined in adjacent cells below. In some places more than seven feet deep and four feet wide, the trench also provided a chance for exercise protected from the fascinated stares of tourists.
About the author

Stephen Currall recently received his BA in history from Arcadia University. Before beginning doctoral studies, he is pursuing his interest in local history, specifically just how Philadelphians engage their vibrant past. Besides skimming through 18th century letters, Steve is also interested in music and travel.

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1 Comment

  1. I have been a patient at Pennsylvania hospital and have visited the historic amphitheater and library which are fantastic but I never heard of the moat before

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