Mills Building, South Carolina State Hospital
Built from 1821-1827, the Mills Building was one of the first mental hospitals built with public funds and the oldest building in the country to be used continuously as a mental institution. It opened as the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum and operated until 1937. South Carolina-born architect Robert Mills designed the building in the Greek Revival style and is considered his best work. At the time of its construction, mental healthcare was very poor by today's standards; it was common belief that the best way to cope with mentally ill people was to shut them away from society. Mills did not agree with this and designed the building with large rooms that faced the south to get the southern exposure and breeze. He also kept door locks and hinges hidden to prevent escapes and to give a more welcoming environment for patients. Today the building does not house any patients and is used for offices of the state mental health department.
Backstory and Context