I finally had the opportunity to visit Rockhaven Sanitarium located in Montrose, California.
Now, one would think that since I was born and raised in Glendale, lived in La Crescenta and my daughter went to preschool a block away, that I would have known all about Rockhaven. I was completely clueless until a few years ago when one of my high school friends posted an article about Rockhaven on Facebook. The California State Historical Resources Commission gave unanimous approval to list the Rockhaven Sanitarium to the California Register of Historical Resources on April 18, 2016. Despite objection by the City of Glendale, the Friends of Rockhaven successfully nominated the Rockhaven Sanitarium for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Why the city that should be the proudest of such a historic property still not approve it is beyond comprehension.
Rockhaven was opened in 1923 by psychiatric nurse Agnes Richards as a private mental health institution for women with mild mental and nervous disorders as the brochure read. At Rockhaven women could be treated with dignity and grace in a beautiful and serene environment
Agnes Traviss Richards, a registered nurse, was inspired to found her own institution when she became discouraged by the way women with mental illness (and those accused of being mentally ill that were not) were treated by large, state-run facilities. Having worked in state-run insane asylums in Nebraska, Iowa and Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, California, she witnessed the atrocities firsthand. Richards’ vision was to create a peaceful, homelike setting where women could be cared for surrounded by gardens and lush landscaping.
Rockhaven was inspired by principles of the Cottage Plan of Asylum architecture for mental institutions, first developed in the late nineteenth century. The Cottage Plan placed numerous individual buildings within landscaped gardens in order to create a serene, homelike environment for residents. Rockhaven is one of the best examples of an early twentieth century woman-owned, women-serving private sanitarium in California, and was one of the first of its type in the nation. It reflects the vision of founder Agnes Richards, R.N., and represents a small, yet significant movement that sought to improve the conditions of mentally ill women in the early twentieth century.
I cannot say it better than the Friends of Rockhave, “In this age of a new women’s movement it seems natural that a site with such significant history as the Rockhaven Historic District should be opened as a park. 95-years ago Agnes Richards opened a place for safe, dignified treatment of women BY women. It offered progressive treatment of both the residents and the women who worked there. Now the property stands the last of a significant California business and is fully intact due to the forethought and action of a group of civic leaders in 2008. It is waiting to be opened to everyone to experience and learn and enjoy whether or not they can afford it. This Historic Park is owned by the public. And we the public would like to have this remarkable jewel of Glendale opened to the public.” If you would like to help – go here for the list of representatives that need to hear from you!
Here are a few of the photos I was able to take. There was so much more to see that I could not get access to, but I hope my second trip will bring more images: