The History of Austin State Hospital

Texas lawmakers have approved more than $2.5 billion to replace and renovate state psychiatric hospitals. These projects will modernize and increase the capacity of facilities where Texans come to heal.

As HHSC replaced buildings at the Austin State Hospital with a new 240-bed hospital, it focused on preserving the history of the campus. By digitizing old blueprints and records, documenting historic buildings and hosting archaeological investigations, HHSC is ensuring the stories of the people who lived and worked at the Austin State Hospital remain available to Texans for generations to come.

Archeological excavations have uncovered parts of former buildings, along with personal effects, bringing the campus history to life. Buttons, jewelry, bottles, serving utensils and ceramic fragments expand the stories that are already documented and help tell new ones.

Learn more about these excavations in the Archeological Excavations at Austin State Hospital Report (PDF).

A Brief History of Austin State Hospital

Austin State Hospital has a rich and intricate history reflective of the continuing progress made in psychiatric care throughout the state and nation.

The hospital was established by the Sixth Texas Legislature in 1856, becoming the first state facility of its kind west of the Mississippi River. It is the oldest hospital in Texas for the care and treatment of those with mental health needs. Construction began in 1857, and the first 12 patients were admitted in 1861. By the late 1890s, the state hospital population grew to almost 700 patients.

The hospital served as a home for many patients and staff — and maintained its own dairy farm, ice factory, sewing and tailor shop, artesian wells and lush gardens.

Renamed Austin State Hospital in 1925, the hospital’s patient population grew to over 3,000 in the 1960s. Throughout its history, Austin State Hospital has partnered with higher education programs to establish a psychiatric residency program and an academic research unit, contributing to it being a leader in developing modern psychiatric treatments and practices.

Austin State Hospital has maintained its position as a critical partner in the mental health continuum of care in Texas for over 165 years. With the new, state-of-the-art building unveiled in 2024, it will continue to provide essential psychiatric services to Texans for years to come.