Updated: April 2019
An Important State Institution
The Broughton Hospital is a 278-bed psychiatric hospital located on the southeast side of Morganton, 3 miles (4.8 km) from downtown. It serves approximately 800 patients per year, employs circa 1,200 staff members and has an operating budget of around $100 million.
When the hospital started to admit its first patients on March 29, 1883, the Broughton Hospital was known as the Western North Carolina Insane Asylum.
The historic main building, today used as office space, is located at the rear of the campus and can best be viewed from Scenic Drive.
The historic main building of the Broughton Hospital is an imposing northwest-facing red brick structure situated on a beautiful hilltop surrounded by over 250 acres of land.
Acclaimed Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan (1815-1884), who was known for his hospital and public building designs, developed the plans for this hospital complex in 1875. Due to his experience from other projects, he had a very good idea about how the building should be constructed and how the hospital should function. He not only explicitly specified the slate for the roof or the cement for the bathroom walls but also the type of dumb waiter, the underground drainage system and the sixteen-foot kitchen range. He also designed a railway system in the basement to make it easier to transport laundry to and from the laundry room.
The central building of the historical complex is four stories high, twelve bays deep and three bays wide and has a high mansard roof with dormers and a tall dome. It features a large, three-story portico with paired Roman Doric columns on pedestals, which flank the entrance. The second level of the portico has Corinthian columns, while the third level uses paired urns instead of columns.
Extending from either side of the central building and falling back in a stepped fashion are seven three-and-a-half story wings and cross wings, the latter visually breaking up this expansive structure and making it more appealing to the eye. Perpendicular wings are placed on both ends of the complex to round off the architectural composition of the entire structure.
After the passionate and relentless petitioning by Dorothea Dix, an influential mental health activist, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation in 1850 to built an asylum for mentally ill patients, which opened in Raleigh NC in 1856.
Within two decades the institution in Raleigh became over-crowded and had to turn down an increasing number of patients. Following those reports, the North Carolina General Assembly voted in 1875 to establish a second asylum in the western half of the state.
Soon, Statesville, Hickory, Morganton, and Asheville were competing to be considered as a potential site. Samuel Tate (1830-1897), who was a local hero during the American Civil War and a successful businessman and politician in the late 1800s, is said to have “artfully worked behind the scenes for his home town” to bring the Western North Carolina Insane Asylum to Morganton. To this day, his stately home, the Historic Tate House, can be seen in downtown Morganton.
The project was plagued with funding shortages created by the North Carolina legislature in the late 1870s, which brought construction to a halt in 1879, causing repeated delays. It was only in 1881 when Governor Thomas Jarvis was successful in securing the necessary funds to complete the main building and the south wing.
After eight years of construction, the partially complete Western North Carolina Insane Asylum admitted its first patients in 1883. It became a resounding success. In the two years after its opening, the hospital received over 250 patients, most of them transfers from the over-crowded facility in Raleigh. This early success led the General Assembly to appropriate the required funds to finally finish the north wing, increasing the capacity of the hospital by an additional 190 patients.
After Samuel Sloan’s death in 1884, his former assistant Adolphus Gustavus Bauer (1858-1898) handled the construction, which he completed by October 1886. Adolphus Bauer is also credited with the design of the North Carolina School of the Deaf in Morganton.
In 1890, the Western North Carolina Insane Asylum officially changed its name to State Hospital at Morganton, a designation it kept until 1959 when it became Broughton Hospital, named for WWII Governor of North Carolina Joseph Melville Broughton (1888-1949).
The Historic Broughton Hospital became part of the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
1000 South Sterling Street, Morganton, NC 28655
View of the historic main building from Scenic Drive.
Free on-premise parking