The Lakeland Asylum

Lakeland Asylum
"Central Kentucky Asylum for the Insane"

From "The Little Colonel's Knight Comes Riding," published 1907, Chapter IV, Betty's Novel:

"It's some crazy man escaped from the Lakeland asylum," began Kitty, but her words were cut short by another shot, then another and another and another, in such rapid succession that they lost count. A series of piercing screams from Lucy, up-stairs, made their blood run cold, but the shrieks were not half as terrifying as the sight of Gay staggering back out of the hall. As they sprang towards her she leaned against them limply."

"Lakeland Asylum" was actually the Central Kentucky Asylum for the Insane. Built in 1869 in Anchorage, it initially housed juvenile delinquents and was called the Home for Juvenile Delinquents at Lakeland. In 1873, it became a lunatic asylum and was renamed the Central Kentucky Lunatic Asylum. By the time "The Little Colonel's Knight Comes Riding" was published, the name had been changed to the Central Kentucky Asylum for the Insane. The facility cared for patients with psychiatric disorders, mental retardation and brain damage and was located next to where Louisville's E. P. Tom Sawyer Park stands today. The original building shown in the post card above was bulldozed in 1996.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, escaped lunatics were an every day hazard of life in Pewee (Lloydsboro) Valley. The Central Kentucky Lunatic Asylum was located only a few miles outside the city limits and inmate escapes occurred with some frequency. In her book, "Jennie Casseday of Louisville : her intimate life as told by her sister, Mrs. Fannie Casseday Duncan."  Mrs. Duncan offers this humorous anecdote about an escape that occurred while Jennie and she were staying alone at the Rest Cottage in Pewee Valley the week before it opened:

"I think I must tell right here a story that is so illustrative of Jennie Casseday's faith and humanness as to bring a smile whenever I tell it.  She went to Rest Cottage a week or so in advance of the opening of that summer Home so as to get rested before the girls came out.  Her nurse and I went with her.  One day her nurse asked to spend the night in town and Jennie gladly accorded the privilege. When bedtime came we were surprised to find that the woman who had been employed as a housekeeper had given the cook permission to spend the night out, and had herself left the home without leave.  That year the Rest was located not far from a lunatic asylum and sometimes there were escapes from it and wanderers through the neighborhood.  Also the house was on the line of a railroad and tramps were not infrequent.  I was consternated -- worse than that, frightened.  I went to my frail little sister and said in despair: "What shall we do? You and I are alone in this house for the whole night.  There is no house very near and if there were, I could not leave you to go for assistance.  What can we do?"
Jennie gave me one of her gentle smiles and answered, "We can trust God.  That's not so bad a thing to do, is it?"  "Yes," I said, "but the lunatics, the tramps, and the possibility of your sudden illness?"
"Do you think they are not also in God's hands?"
So we went to bed and Jennie went to sleep almost at once.  But I was very wakeful until past midnight.  In the morning, the colored man, who came early to do the milking, had a horrid report.  He told me that at 4 in the morning a lunatic had got loose and came to Rest Cottage and danced right under Jennie's window in a wild sort of dance.  He had on nothing but his cotton underdrawers and he had a big tin washpan on his head and a long iron flesh-fork in his hands.  Searchers came and got him at daylight and took him back to the asylum.  I was rather elated with this news and carried it at once to my sister's bedside.  "Aha, Miss Trustful," I said, "let me tell you what happened last night and maybe you will not be so trustful again."  And I told it all, adding such gruesome reflections as came to me.
"Were you frightened?" she asked.
"Frightened?  No I did not know he was there or I would have been, sure."`
"Did the man hurt you or me?" she countered.
I had nothing more to say and Jennie closed the incident by quoting: "Except the Lord keep the city the watchman waketh in vain."


page by Donna Russell