Manteno State Hospital

About The Manteno Project

The Manteno Project


In 1927, Illinois State Governor Len Small, the “Good Roads
Governor”, was building roads, expanding universities, accepting bribes from “the syndicate” (as some sources suggest) and overseeing plans for the construction of a new state hospital in Manteno, Illinois.

Although the ground wasn’t broken until 1928, the plans were well underway
for an institution that was to provide relief from the over crowed situations at several other Illinois state hospitals.

In 1930 the Manteno State Hospital received its first 100 patients and by the end of 1985, the hospital was closed and remaining patients were sent elsewhere. For over 50 years Manteno State Hospital was an institution that cared for the mentally and
physically ill, the developmentally disabled and veterans of various wars. With a peak population of over 8,000 patients, Manteno State Hospital was a self contained city with little reliability on other municipal resources.

Yet, to this day, very little is known about Manteno State Hospital,who worked there, what happened there, when it was opened, why it was closed, and how it operated. It has become a faded memory of the past, a subject of much curiosity and the setting
of many a folklore and urban legend.


The Manteno Project is an attempt to solve a mystery, find out information, establish an archive of images, interviews, contributions, research and make them accessible to the public by publishing this information on the web and eventually, in a book.

The research, interviews and other materials collected are intermittently submitted to the Manteno Public Library District and may or may not be used in the publication of a book about the hospital.

I hope you enjoy this site and perhaps find the information you are looking for. Comments and questions are strongly encouraged and you may freely contact the project.

The mission of The Manteno Project is to gather research, personal histories, data and statistics about the Manteno State Hospital/Manteno Mental Health Center and make that information available to the public, via our web site. The Manteno Project’s purpose is to educate people and preserve the history of one of the nation’s largest state mental instututions (with a peak population of over 8,000 patients).

The Project is often called upon to provide information to representatives of the media, the entertainment industry, artists, photographers, historians, healthcare professionals, researchers, educators/educational institutions, PhD candidates, organizations and individuals wishing to resolve the histories of mental illness within their own families. In the past, inquiries have been made by the BBC, the CBC, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, UCLA, University of Chicago, Northwestern University, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Iowa, University of the Free State in South Africa, The Daily Journal (Manteno, IL), NorthSouth Productions and many more.

This site is dedicated to the former patients and employees of Manteno State Hospital/Manteno Mental Health Center. It is dedicated to the mentally ill, their families and those who have dedicated their lives to providing their care. This site is also dedicated to the professionals, researchers and scholars who continue to study and make progressions in the field of mental health. Lastly, this site is dedicated to those curious and dedicated people who seek out asylums or dedicate their time and efforts documenting their long, yet not forgotten histories.


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