Northern State Mental Hospital

Quick background history: Northern State Mental Hospital was established in 1909 and was an impressively self-sufficient facility with a farm that sprawled over 700 acres. It housed as many as 2,200 residents and employed 415. The residents whose “mental illness” ranged from ADHS to menopause to depression, worked in the farm’s many facilities. They grew their own vegetables, harvested their own fruit from the ground’s trees, canned their produce, harvested enough eggs daily for each of the residents to eat at least one egg per day, milked the cows, and slaughtered animals for meat. The hospital closed in 1973 and some of its buildings are not being used as a Job Corps facility and drug rehab. The rest of the grounds are now a park open to the public.

Opening day 1912

The kids and I have been planning for weeks to visit Northern State Mental Hospital but the weather has been really uncooperative lately. We finally got a break from the rain and snow and were able to venture out. Yay! Anthony’s (18-year-old) best friend Gavin decided to accompany us on this journey so we stopped in Lake Stevens along the way to pick him up then were on our way.

Aerial shot of the hospital grounds

The hospital grounds were very easy to find and there was plenty of available parking in the lot. We made our way up the path to the right where the yellow buildings stand. These looked to be mostly, if not all barns. We are going to have to come back to see the cemetery since we didn’t notice it beyond the barn structures. I told Anthony and Gavin they were free to explore on their own so they quickly went off in their own direction.

We made our way through all the barns then decided to make our way up to what I recognized from another blogger as the slaughter house up on the hill. It is said that the school children who used to live on the grounds were afraid to walk by this building.

Old slaughter house

The old slaughter house was completely full of blackberry bushes and caved in roof debris. We only spent a few minutes there before continuing on up the hill to an old red barn.


The barn was kind of cool. Though empty, it had a bunch of cool beams and vines inside.

To the left of the old red barn is the forest line with a path winding up toward it so I decided to see where it went. I reached the tree line which is bordered with a barbed wire fence and noticed what looked to be the frame of an old gate. For some reason I felt a twinge of sadness there. I noticed the forest was eerily quiet. I heard maybe, one bird. I don’t know why, but I imagined that children travelled that pathway and whole tree line at one time, possibly entertaining each other with stories and playing chase.

The kids and I decided walk down the path in the direction we came but keep straight instead of heading back toward the parking lot. We came to a pretty stream and then what looked to be occupied buildings to the left, on the other side of a fence. I was hoping to walk to the old well house but after walking for about 10-15 minutes, I grew tired of listening to all three kids complaining about their legs, feet, and ankles hurting and decided to turn around.  I hadn’t said anything to them but my feet, left knee, and the toes on my left foot were starting to act up (old knee injury, 2 bone spurs on each heel, and apparently a too small shoe box on my left tennis shoe). I used to wall 3-6 miles every day but my heel spurs have slowed me down quite a bit.

The kids all of a sudden had more energy on the way back. Probably because they had their lunches waiting for them in the car, but we had one last stop to make—the red buildings to the left of the parking lot. I have to say these buildings—the food processing buildings were my favorite. They have more character than the rest. More things to see. The cannery and the brick buildings are the only buildings standing but both have several rooms with some interesting remaining artifacts.

One building was so caved in, it was almost completely toppled to the ground.

I would like to come back soon. I thought the grounds might be a bit creepy but they weren’t. Northern State Hospital seemed to have been a pleasant place to live, despite the circumstances that led to its patients becoming its wards. At least the grounds offered peace and beauty.

I have seen pictures of the old greenhouse but it seems to be on the off-limits portion of the grounds. I would love to hear from you if you have visited Northern State Hospital and what your experience was. Also, if you have been one of the lucky ones to tour the hospital, please share what you were able to see. I am hoping more tours will be given in the near future. Next stop: Deception Pass State Park to watch the sunset!

Thank you for reading and God bless~Giannine

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