Historic Sites & Attractions

The Ridges Cemeteries & State Mental Hospital

The Ridges Cemeteries & State Mental Hospital

Location: Richland Ave., Athens

On January 9, 1874, a state-of-the-art psychiatric hospital opened on the Ridges in Athens. Originally named The Athens Lunatic Asylum, the institution featured grandiose buildings surrounded by elaborate landscaping with ponds, fountains, and parks.


The theory was that patients' health would be improved, if not altogether cured, by the beautiful setting. Unfortunately, mental health care during the time was not nearly as advanced as it is today, and once admitted, most patients remained until their deaths. The hospital soon created its own cemeteries to serve as a final resting place for patients who were not claimed by their families. With few exceptions their graves were marked only with a number. Over the years, a few gravestones with names have been purchased by family members of the deceased.


These cemeteries have recently been the focus of a restoration project led by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and are now part of the Ridges Cemeteries Nature Walk. Cemetery walking guides are available at the Athens County Convention & Visitors Bureau. 


Please note that the only former state hospital building open to the public is the Kennedy Museum. Photos of the asylum are often on view here. No tours or other access is offered to the public.  


Get There!

To The Ridges: From US 33, take the SR 682/Ohio University Exit. Turn left onto Richland Avenue. Take the first right onto Dairy Lane, then turn right into the Ridges at the bend in the road.