A Case of Hysteria

The Ladies of Rockhaven

At the time of its founding in 1923, Rockhaven provided a sanctuary for residents unmatched by any institution across the country. The first six patients resided in Agnes Richards’s stone house, a stark contrast to the looming impersonal architecture of contemporary mental hospitals. The two-story home had a large welcoming porch, balcony, trellises, walking paths, and flower beds designed to promote a peaceful therapeutic environment. For nearly eighty years, Rockhaven—run by and catering only to women—addressed female-specific mental health issues. In 2001, it was purchased by a local elder-care company and then closed five years later. Many longtime residents were abruptly forced out, leaving behind their belongings, such as the photographs, trinkets, personal notes, and clothing seen here. Over the past decade, the Friends of Rockhaven have preserved these personal effects and identified some of their previous owners.

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