This is how learning history may look if you’re an unschooler. Sometimes it’s fascinatingly unplanned and unscripted. We go, we explore, we take pictures (lots and lots of pictures) we discuss. When we get back home, we research and discuss more.
This particular day we decided to explore the grounds of the old State Mental Asylum. For years, it has been closed, and you were not allowed to be on the property. That has since changed, and while you are allowed onto the property, you are NOT allowed into the buildings. Entering the buildings could pose serious health problems as there is mold, asbestos, and other safety hazards.
The State Mental Asylum has a FASCINATING history just as colorful as the varying shades of decay. Robert Mills was chosen to design the asylum and being one of the first facilities of its kind, later became a prison camp for Union soldiers during the Civil War.
As the population grew, it became increasingly difficult to treat patients and was largely used as a dormitory for the mentally ill. Learning this tidbit of information led us to wonder what, exactly, was considered “mentally ill” in the 1800’s.
From what I could find online, this building was either part of the mattress factory or the laundry facilities. While there is a website that is devoted to the history of the asylum, it doesn’t have every building listed.
We looked inside the windows down this alley. You could see there have been squatters taking residence inside the building.
The gurney in this photo has been there, in that exact location for several years. In our research, you can see this same photo, it’s as if time stopped, right there.
We met a security guard while we were exploring. She explained to us that we could be there and take photos, as long as we didn’t enter the buildings. I gave her my word. The guard said we could look through windows as long as we didn’t cross any barriers doing so. Our new friend also explained the buildings that remain, to her knowledge, were going to be restored. However, she didn’t say what the plans for them were.
After finding a few used hypodermic needles, we decided to call it a day, and count this day as a field study for state history.
This is how learning history may look if you’re an unschooler.