BLASTING UNCOVERS OLD GRAVES AT HOSPITAL
Published: May 23, 1984, Lexington
Herald-Leader, Page B1, Author: Jacqueline Duke
A road crew blasting a strip of land
for the Loudon Avenue extension project loosened more than dirt near Eastern
State Hospital five weeks ago.
Human bones and bits of clothing shot skyward, too, startling the workers and
bringing the project to an abrupt halt.
The road crew had unearthed several unmarked
graves, remnants of another era when the Eastern State Lunatic Asylum, as it was
once called, buried patients on the grounds.
The Urban County Government bought the land where the graves were found from the
state for right-of-way access as part of the Loudon
Avenue project. Under state law, the local government must attempt to contact
relatives of those buried there by advertising in regional publications. The
government must wait 60 days before it can move the graves and proceed with the
"We really have no idea of the magnitude or the number" of graves existing
there, said David Uckotter, acting assistant commissioner of public works. He
said that he didn't know how old the graves were, but that he thought the
burials occurred before 1900.
Yesterday, the Urban County Council voted to hire an Owingsville company to
conduct a study of the property to determine how many graves are there. Uckotter
said the company probably would strip the topsoil and find the graves by
discovering where the ground was disturbed.
Once the 60-day notice expires, "we'll move all the dead bodies," Mayor Scotty
The state, which is paying for the Loudon Avenue project, will reimburse the
Urban County Government the $20,000 awarded to the Richardson Corp. to find the
graves, Baesler said.
In other action, the council tentatively voted to sell the former planning
office on North Upper Street to United Way for $180,000. United Way will
renovate the building for use as a headquarters. The planning staff moved into
the Lexington-Fayette Government Center last year.
The council also tentatively endorsed several proposals intended to reduce
traffic flow and to deter motorists from speeding in a southeast Lexington
A temporary traffic circle, the first in Lexington, will be installed along with
yield signs at Lakeside Drive and Coltneck Lane. Traffic lines will be painted
on Lakeside Drive as well.
PROJECT IS DELAYED BY GRAVEYARD WORK ON LOUDON AVENUE EXTENSION TO BE HALTED
UNTIL BODIES ARE MOVED
Published: July 23, 1984, Lexington
Herald-Leader, Page C1, Author: Jacqueline Duke
Construction of the Loudon Avenue extension in
Lexington, already delayed three months, will not resume until next month or
later - after 180 to 200 bodies are moved from a graveyard at the site, Urban
County Government officials said.
The project was halted in April after an explosion set off by a road crew sent
human bones and bits of clothing soaring from a forgotten cemetery on the
grounds of Lexington's Eastern State Hospital.
Loudon Avenue will bisect hospital property to
link Broadway with Newtown Pike. Officials already had planned to relocate an
existing graveyard with 600 bodies when the new discovery was made.
"It's very unusual," said Russell Johnson, district engineer for the state
An Owingsville company contracted by the Urban County Government to map the
cemetery estimates that 180 to 200 bodies are buried on the 4-acre site near the
hospital's central buildings.
The identities of the bodies remain unknown, but the contractor speculated that
the graveyard might be part of an old family plot also used for the burial of
slaves. A University of Kentucky professor working on a history of the hospital,
however, thinks some of the graves contain the bodies of former mental patients.
"My guess is that it's probably a combination of a community or family graveyard
and some patients from the latter part of the 19th century," history professor
Ronald White said.
What's more, White estimated that as many as 2,000 patients were buried on the
"I think the possibilities for bodies out there are enormous," he said. ''There
could be as many as 2,000 bodies out there based on the death rate."
Mayor Scotty Baesler said Friday that the bodies and the known cemetery nearby
would be moved to a new site on hospital property.
The Urban County Government acquired the land where the graves were found
from the state for right-of-way access as part of the road project.
It has not been determined yet who will move those graves.
"The cemetery has four definite sides. They were in orderly rows," said Randolph
Richardson, president of the grave-mapping company.
"It is very unusual for a cemetery of this age to be this neat and orderly," he
said in his report to the local government, "and we are of the opinion that it
was probably first used as a family cemetery site."
No study has been done to determine the ages of the bones, nor is one
"There really is no way to tell," Richardson said. "We don't disturb the
During the study, the consultant discovered four badly damaged monuments, the
oldest one bearing the initials P.S. and dated 1819. Eastern - the second-
oldest mental hospital in the country - admitted its first patient in 1824. The
Richardson Corp. also found skull pieces, bone fragments and two cast-iron
caskets containing full and partial human remains.
"I think there are other (unmarked) sites," Richardson said.
The road crew's discovery of one mystery cemetery has interested White, who
recently completed a dissertation titled "A Dialogue on Madness: Eastern State
Lunatic Asylum and Mental Health Policy in Kentucky, 1824-1883." He
plans to write a book on the subject, which he said would be the
first detailed account of the institution.
In doing his research, White learned that the hospital did not acquire the
property where the estimated 180 to 200 graves were discovered until 1867.
The hospital did not document how it disposed of bodies until the late 19th
century, but because the majority of patients were paupers and wards of the
state, White presumes they were buried on the hospital grounds, which once
spanned 200 acres.
"Most of them died from disease," White said, noting that cholera epidemics
devastated the patient population in 1833, 1849, 1850 and 1855. Patients also
died from smallpox, chronic dysentery and various methods of treating mental
illness at the time: bloodletting and the use of laxatives, vomiting agents and
"There's no bad guys involved. They were kind of over their heads," White said.
"They didn't know much about the contagion of disease."
As the hospital grew - from 34 patients in 1824 to more than 1,000 in the 1920s
- the number of deaths rose accordingly. White estimated that as many as 40
percent of the patients admitted to the hospital during its first 60 years died
At one point in its history, White said, the hospital had more deaths than any
institution of its kind in the country.
"This was always an embarrassment," White said of the mortality rate. ''They
couldn't figure it out."
Many of the early deaths were linked to a polluted water supply discovered in
1856, White said. Once the water problem was corrected, the death rate waned for
a number of years, he added.
Until the discovery of the graveyard, state officials had anticipated completing
the $871,000 Loudon Avenue project by the end of the year. Work probably will
not resume until August, when Baesler hopes to have the bodies moved.
Johnson said the delay would not increase the project's cost.
MORE REMAINS THAN EXPECTED 800 BURIAL SITES FOUND SO FAR
Published: August 29, 1984, Lexington
Herald-Leader, Page B1, Author: Merlene Davis
The remains of about 1,000 more bodies than
originally estimated have been unearthed from a forgotten cemetery on what was
once Eastern State Hospital property in Lexington, and officials think still
more may be found.
Jim Eggensperger, manager of communications and company relations for
International Business Machines Corp., which agreed to pay to move the bodies as
part of a land swap with the Urban County Government, said that as of yesterday
1,800 bodies had been found. They were removed to a nearby site belonging to the
mental hospital. About 200 square feet of ground still must be searched.
An additional 180 bodies were discovered in a
smaller, overgrown cemetery on city-owned property earlier this summer.
Eggensperger said he could not estimate how long the relocation project would be
delayed or how much money it would involve. The original estimate was $1
"We're not estimating it at all," he said.
The company contracted with the Richardson Corp., a grave-mapping firm from
Owingsville, to relocate the graves without specifying a particular number,
Eggensperger said. The total cost will not be known until the job is completed.
Meanwhile, construction on the Loudon Avenue extension - which began in April
and ended abruptly when a road crew set off an explosion that unearthed human
remains from the smaller graveyard - has gotten the go-ahead, according to Urban
County Government engineer Bob Woodrum.
Loudon Avenue eventually will connect Broadway with Newtown Pike by crossing
land formerly owned by the hospital.
"The right of way has been cleared and the contractor was given the OK during
the last couple of days," Woodrum said, adding that most of the right of way was
opened to construction two weeks ago.
Before discovery of the graveyard, state officials had expected to complete the
$871,000 Loudon project by the end of the year. The land where the small
graveyard was discovered had been bought by the local government for the right
of way, but the state is paying for the road construction.
IBM agreed last month to pay the largest portion of the grave-relocation project
in exchange for 2.6 acres of city-owned property on the north side of the Loudon
Avenue extension. Local government was given a tract of land owned by IBM on the
Eggensperger said the company had no immediate plans for the land.
The Urban County Government reportedly contributed $100,000 from a state grant
to the relocation project.
Most of the bodies are believed to be those of former mental patients.
Richardson Corp. will move the remains to a new 1,500-square-foot, fenced-in
cemetery on Eastern State Hospital property. Each grave will have a marker,
although the identity of most of the bodies remains unknown.
The new cemetery, on the northeastern sector of the hospital's property, has
been marked off and is about half-filled.
A University of Kentucky professor who is working on a history of the hospital
thinks there could be as many as 2,000 bodies buried on the hospital grounds.
"My guess is that it's probably a combination of a community or family graveyard
and some patients from the latter part of the 19th century," Ronald White said
when the bones were discovered.
"Most of them died from disease," he said, adding that cholera epidemics
drastically reduced the patient population in 1833, 1849, 1850 and 1855.
BURIAL SITE MAY YIELD MANY MORE
Published: September 28, 1984, Lexington
Herald-Leader, Page B2, Author: Jacqueline Duke
A forgotten cemetery on former Eastern State
Hospital property that already has yielded 1,800 graves contains the remains of
still more bodies, a grave-mapper says.
Randolph Richardson, president of the Owingsville grave-mapping company hired by
International Business Machines Corp. to move the graves, said his crew had
discovered more remains during relocation efforts. The discovery is not
surprising, he said, because no one knew the boundaries of the cemetery when the
"We are sure that they are Eastern State
patients and we have been told that this, in the past, has been used as a
pauper's cemetery," he said.
He declined to speculate on the number of new graves, which have been found on a
two-acre site owned by IBM.
"I wouldn't dare venture a guess. Cemeteries have a way of confounding the
experts," he said.
But Richardson acknowledged that there might be hundreds more bodies buried
there, based on the number of graves already discovered. He described the
cemetery as orderly but dense, with many of the bodies buried only 6 inches
apart. Most of the dead were buried in unmarked graves, he added.
Richardson's company has begun mapping the site to determine the number of
remaining graves and is negotiating a new contract with IBM to move the bodies,
said Jim Eggensperger, IBM's manager of communications and community relations.
IBM officials said they did not know how much more the relocation project would
The company originally agreed to pay about $1 million to move the graves as part
of a land-swap deal with the Urban County Government. The graves were moved to a
nearby site belonging to Eastern State along with 180 bodies discovered in a
smaller cemetery on city-owned property.
A road crew working on the Loudon Avenue extension project discovered the
smaller cemetery this spring when it set off an explosion that revealed the
remains. That discovery eventually led to another, larger cemetery near the
Richardson said the cemetery was neglected and eventually forgotten as a result
of poor record keeping and inadequate state funding during the hospital's early
years. The hospital accepted its first patient in 1824 and continued to bury
patients on the grounds until the 1940s or 1950s, he said.
BODIES EXHUMED AS PART OF PROBE
Published: June 4, 1985, Lexington
Herald-Leader, Page B1, Author: Valarie Honeycutt
Police began exhuming the remains of former
Eastern State Hospital patients yesterday from a new graveyard on hospital
property as an investigation into alleged fraudulent activity by a grave-mapping
A forensic anthropologist, hired by the state, began examining the remains in
each box "to determine if it contains the complete set of remains of one person
and not partial remains of more than one body," Lt. Drexel Neal said.
According to a statement
released last month, Neal said the Richardson Corp. of Owingsville was being
investigated after allegations that it "inflated the
number of remains" found in an old graveyard on hospital property.
Because the company was being paid a "set fee per grave site relocation," the
statement said, "the inflation of the number of remains allowed Richardson Corp.
to collect fees for remains that allegedly didn't exist."
People who worked for the Richardson Corp. when it removed the graves last year
were summoned last month to appear before a Fayette grand jury next week.
When the Richardson Corp. originally dug the remains, most were wrapped in
sheets, Neal said, and its employees put them in boxes and reburied them.
If the anthropologist finds the remains of one person in more than one box,
"that would substantiate the claim that the remains were
spread out among several boxes, giving the appearance that there were more
bodies than there actually were," Neal said.
In a telephone interview last night, company president Randolph Richardson said
he had no comment.
"But at the proper time, I will make a statement," he said.
No criminal charges have been filed, but police have said that the charge
associated with such allegations would be theft by deception.
Police exhumed only the boxes that were reburied under "the per-body contract,"
International Business Machines Corp. originally agreed to pay Richardson Corp.
about $1 million to remove about 1,800 bodies as part of a land-swap deal with
the Urban County Government. The bodies, found during construction of the Loudon
Avenue extension in August and September, were to be relocated in a new
graveyard on hospital property.
But in February, IBM spokeswoman Rosemary Booth said the cemetery had yielded
the remains of 4,500 bodies - more than double the number expected.
On May 23, police entered the Richardson Corp.'s offices in Owingsville and
confiscated business records, contracts and employee data pertaining to removal
and relocation of the graves. Those who worked on that job received subpoenas.
The company's payroll now consists of only three or four people, said Sgt.
Raleigh Pate of the economic crime unit. Most of the 23 people subpoenaed were
hired specifically for the IBM project, he said.
Pate oversaw the exhumation yesterday.
Police obtained a reinterment permit from the state and executed a search
warrant at Eastern State in order to remove the remains, Neal said, adding that
he did not know how long the exhumation would continue.
The bodies apparently were those of former hospital patients who had died
anywhere from 1824 to the 1950s.
EXHUMATION AT HOSPITAL COMPLETED
Published: June 7, 1985, Lexington
Herald-Leader, Page B1; Author: Valarie Honeycutt
Lexington police, investigating allegations of
fraudulent activity in removing and reburying remains of former Eastern State
Hospital patients, completed the exhumation of bodies from a graveyard on
hospital property yesterday.
Sgt. Raleigh Pate, who oversaw the exhumation, said results would not be
available until a state-hired anthropologist has completed a detailed study of
The exhumation began Monday, with the
anthropologist examining each box to determine whether it contained the complete
set of remains from one person.
"Each step of the exhumation is being documented by still photography, labeling"
and the contents of the boxes are being put into containers, Capt. Phil Kitchen
Meanwhile, Randolph Richardson, owner of the Richardson Corp., has denied
allegations that the Owingsville grave-mapping company inflated the number of
remains and received fees for moving remains that didn't exist.
"Nothing improper occurred on that job. We had a very
difficult job, and we did it to the best of our ability," Richardson said in a
from his Owingsville home.
"I deny the allegations," he said. "Whatever came out of
the old graves went back into the boxes.
"The history and reputation of our company speaks for itself. We have never been
accused of anything like this."
He also said that one of his employees went to the exhumation scene but was
asked to leave. However, police Lt. Drexel Neal said the employee "was free to
"He was given a specific distance to stay away from the ditch," Neal said,
adding that the employee left a few minutes later.
Richardson also criticized the state for hiring an anthropologist from out of
Karr Burns of Georgia "was recommended by the (Army) Corps of Engineers
because the federal government had used her on several locations
involving cemetery digs," Kitchen said.
Ms. Burns, a forensic anthropologist, is being employed by the state through
special financing for expert witnesses.
Neal said earlier this week that if Ms. Burns found the remains of one person in
more than one box, it would substantiate the claim that the remains were spread
out among several boxes, giving the appearance of more bodies than there
No criminal charges have been filed, but police have said that the charge
associated with such allegations would be theft by deception.
International Business Machines Corp. originally agreed to pay the company about
$1 million to remove about 1,800 bodies as part of a land-swap deal with the
Urban County Government. The bodies, found during construction of the Loudon
Avenue extension in August and September, were relocated in a new graveyard on
In February, a hospital spokeswoman said that the cemetery had yielded
4,500 bodies - more than double the expected number. The bodies
apparently were those of hospital patients who died between 1824 and the 1950s.
On May 23, police entered Richardson Corp. offices in Owingsville with a search
warrant and confiscated business records pertaining to the removal and
relocation of the graves. Employees who had worked on the job received subpoenas
to appear before a Fayette grand jury this month.
SKELETAL REMAINS FOUND AT EASTERN
STATE HOSPITAL - UK IS RESEARCHING BONES UNCOVERED BY BACKHOE
June 9, 2005, Lexington Herald-Leader, Page B3,
Author: Delano R. Massey
Researchers are studying three sets of
skeletal remains that were uncovered by a backhoe operator digging trenches at
Eastern State Hospital this week.
The remains were found beneath about 10 feet of dirt Monday afternoon as a
trench was being dug for a water main. The University of Kentucky's department
of archaeological research is now trying to find out more about the remains,
Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn said yesterday.
"This is probably a cemetery that dates way
back," Ginn said. "When I say way back, I'm talking into the 1800s."
Ginn, who identified the remains as human, said the university's archaeology
department will study the bones to determine details such as race, gender and
age. Researchers will probably return to the site at 624 West Fourth Street to
look for more artifacts such as jewelry, buttons, and nails from pieces of a
casket, which can help identify a time frame. Their report could be available as
early as today.
The hospital was established in 1824. Ginn said he looked at a map of the
hospital from 1861, which shows that it sat on a huge piece of property that
encompassed a dairy farm, supplied its own meats and vegetables and had a
Still, "these graves are not a part of that cemetery and are not remotely close
to that cemetery," Ginn said. "That leads us to believe this cemetery was there,
possibly, before the commonwealth purchased this property."
Eastern's clinical director, Michael Daniluk, said this wasn't the first time
that aged remains have been found on the hospital's property.
"At that time, they didn't really mark the graves real well," he said. "With all
the different changes in what is part of our land and what isn't, it's not
uncommon to turn up remains from the 1800s."
Reach Delano Massey at (859) 231-1455, 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1455, or
CLUB FORMS TO RESTORE CEMETERY
ITS GOAL: DIGNITY FOR GRAVES NEAR EASTERN STATE
Published: July 16,
2006, Lexington Herald-Leader, Page A1,
When Dickie Taylor found
out his great-grandfather, Pendelton Taylor, was buried in the Eastern State
Hospital cemetery, he couldn't wait to visit the site.
But instead of a
peaceful place to pray, reflect and connect with the relative he'd never met,
Taylor found a cemetery with overgrown weeds and mounds of uncut grass,
surrounded by a rusted mental fence. There was no sign of a headstone, much less
his great-grandfather's grave.
He was horrified. And he
discovered others were, too.
Taylor is among those
who inspired the formation of the Eastern State Hospital Cemetery Club, a group
whose mission is to restore the cemetery and bring dignity to the thousands of
unknown bodies buried there.
Located about a
half-mile behind Eastern State Hospital, the nearly one-acre plot has a few
scattered trees, a dirt-covered bench and several bright yellow lilies that seem
out of place. There is a lone, rather arbitrarily placed tombstone that reads:
"Celebrating their dignity."
The monument reeks of
irony, said Bruce Burris, the leader of the restoration effort. Because the
cemetery has been disturbed over the years by construction projects, hundreds of
human remains have been mixed together and re-buried, making it nearly
impossible to tell who is buried where, said Burris, who has been researching
the cemetery for several years.
One reason for the
nameless graves, he said, is that people were ashamed of the stigma of mental
illness. As a result, family and friends sometimes did not claim their loved
ones when they died. Some never knew they were there. Many patients were just
abandoned or became wards of the state.
"Back then, people
hushed their mouths up. They didn't talk about things," Taylor, 52, said. "It's
not that it was a bad thing, but a hospital like that ... it was taboo."
A shared connection
Members of the club, which held its first meeting in
June, all have some connection to the hospital.
One is a social worker.
Another has mental illness in her family. Another is a former patient. Burris,
whose mother was once hospitalized for mental illness, stumbled upon the
gravesite a few years ago while he was volunteering at the Hope Center, behind
Group members have
already brainstormed ideas for restoring the cemetery and have planned another
meeting for Aug. 15.
They want to raise money
for a large plaque or monument inscribed with the names of those buried there.
They want better landscaping. They want to raise public awareness about the
But most of all, they
want to give dignity to the people buried there.
"These people led a
pretty dismal life the first time around. They've already been disturbed once,"
Burris said. "People hope they can have some kind of dignified burial when they
die, and we're going to try to make that happen."
Club members hope to
complete the restoration in the next two to four years.
The most unnerving aspect of the Eastern State Hospital
cemetery is how little is known about it, club members said, including how many
bodies are buried there.
Eastern State Hospital
has a long history. It is the nation's second-oldest mental hospital, still
operating on the corner of West Fourth Street and Newtown Pike. The hospital
started in 1822, when it was called the Lunatic Asylum.
People were buried in
the cemetery from the early 1800s until the mid-1950s, Shoemaker said. The
hospital, owned by the state but now managed by the Bluegrass Regional Mental
Health-Mental Retardation Board Inc., has about 150 patients.
In the summer of 1984,
the Herald-Leader reported that the Loudon Avenue extension
was delayed because
hundreds of bodies, presumably former Eastern State patients,
were found on the
property. The article said bits of bones and clothing were sent flying
after an explosion by
the road crew. Ronald White, a University of Kentucky professor
who was then working on
a history of the hospital, estimated there were as many as
2,000 patients buried
For the next 20 years,
more construction projects revealed forgotten corpses. In February
1985, a hospital
spokesperson said the cemetery probably had about 4,500 bodies, more
than double what was
I don't want to be a secret
Club member Kathryn McCullough has a personal interest
in the restoration project.
Once a successful college professor, McCullough was
diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in 1990, which includes symptoms of
schizophrenia and manic depression.
After more than 10 years of treatment in mental
institutions, McCullough, 44, moved to Lexington and was admitted to Eastern
She said she was angry when she first saw the cemetery.
After all, she could have been buried there.
"I was isolated behind those same walls," McCullough
said. "You stand there and get a sense of what those people have experienced and
continue to experience, even in death, because they're in the middle of an
overgrown field. ... They're anonymous to the point of non-existence. You just
want people to be dignified in some way."
McCullough said she is speaking out about her disorder
because she wants people to talk about, to know about, and to understand mental
illness. She doesn't want to be alone.
"I don't want to be anonymous," she said. "I don't want
to be a secret."
Obstacles to overcome
Despite the group's effort, the future of the cemetery
Officials at Eastern State Hospital declined to comment
for this story, saying only that
they are not responsible for the future of the
"This is state property. We don't have anything to do
with what the state will do with our
cemetery or not," said hospital assistant executive
director Tricia Salyer.
The Department of Health and Family Services, which
holds the title to the property, will
have to recommend to the state Finance and
Administration Cabinet any changes the club hopes to make, said spokeswoman
Gwenda Bond. The cabinet would then draft an agreement with the club.
The club hopes to avoid conflict with state officials,
which could slow the project.
"We want to do this positively and without
finger-pointing," Burris said.
The group will also need to raise money for the
monument and the landscaping. The hospital maintenance staff mows the grass, but
hospital officials have not met with Burris to talk about additional upkeep of
In addition, researching the history of the property
and the names of the people buried there could take time and would probably
require access to confidential medical records and cooperation from family
In the meantime, Eastern State librarian Shane
Shoemaker, who has been working with the club, said he is reviewing records and
working with librarians, historians and former
employees to gather information.
Shoemaker said he gets many calls from family members
trying to find more information about relatives who might or might not have been
"A lot of people want genealogy information, but it's a
question mark because it ends here," Shoemaker said. "It's the one big missing
link, and as of now there's only so far I am able to go to help."
Faye Morton, president of the National Alliance for the
Mentally Ill of Lexington, a support
group, applauds the effort, noting that the system for
notifying families about patients in
mental health treatment centers has improved over the
years and families are more likely to participate in the burial arrangments for
Still, the club is working to solve the unanswered
questions of family members who hope to find closure through the project.
"It's very sad -- when you think about going to a
family member's grave, you just don't expect to see that," Taylor said. "It
takes something away from you when you can't walk over to a spot and say, 'That
is my great-grandfather.'"
Archeological Investigations of Unmarked Graves at Eastern State Hospital,
Lexington, Fayette County Kentucky (PDF)
Lexington Herald Leader, Mon, April
Graves complicate plans for
Eastern State Hospital land
Lexington Herald Leader, Mon, Apr. 09, 2007, By
Michelle Ku, Herald-Leader Staff Writer
It will be at least two years before Eastern State
Hospital moves to a new facility, but work is
already under way to determine what should be done
with the prime land at its current site near
Any redevelopment of that property will have an
unusual -- and grisly -- problem to deal with: More
than 10,000 bodies might be buried on the property
in unmarked graves.
Eastern State, a psychiatric facility, didn't keep
records of where patients who died there were
buried, said Bruce Burris, spokesmen for the Eastern
State Hospital Cemetery Club. Many of the grave
markers that existed have disappeared over time, but
the majority of the graves probably didn't have any
markers because of the stigma of mental illness,
Bodies have already been discovered during previous
In 1984, more than 150 bodies were found during
blasting for an extension of Loudon Avenue. More
recently, the remains of 11 people were discovered
in 2005 when a backhoe operator was digging a trench
for a water main. Those skeletal remains will be
reburied at the cemetery on Wednesday.
A Kentucky Archaeological Survey report about the 11
sets of remains that will be reburied Wednesday
warns about the presence of other remains at Eastern
'Considering the history of the site and where these
remains were discovered, the potential of finding
additional burials in this portion of the hospital
grounds is high,' the report said.
Members of the cemetery club and the Fayette County
Cemetery Trust say that although plans for
redevelopment are in the early stages, it's not too
early to make sure the plans take into account that
bodies will have to be moved.
'They give more priority to sinkholes when they're
developing than they do to graves or anything else
that's historical,' said Lisa Sanden, president of
the cemetery trust.
Hospital looks to relocate
Eastern State, at West Fourth Street and Newtown
Pike, is the nation's second-oldest state-run
psychiatric hospital. The hospital was established
in 1822 as the Lunatic Asylum and opened in 1824.
Since 2003, there has been talk about relocating
Eastern State. Proposals have included moving the
hospital to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center on
Leestown Road and constructing a new joint Lexington
and Louisville mental hospital somewhere between the
The current proposal is for the Bluegrass Regional
Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board, the
non-profit group that operates Eastern State, to
build a new facility on at least 30 acres of land
within 15 minutes of the current hospital. The board
submitted a proposal for a new hospital to the state
in December, said Joseph Toy, president and CEO of
the Bluegrass board.
The state is negotiating with the Bluegrass board,
said Gwenda Bond, spokeswoman for the state Cabinet
for Health and Family Services. 'We might have an
announcement or something more firm early next month
or by middle of next month.'
Toy said he has talked with the University of
Kentucky about land at the UK Coldstream Research
Park, but hasn't signed any contracts yet. UK is
open to the idea of relocating Eastern State to
Coldstream, said Jay Blanton, UK's spokesman.
The new state-of-the-art facility would be able to
serve up to 400 inpatients at a time, about 100 more
than the current capacity at Eastern State. New,
specialized programs for veterans and people with a
combination of substance abuse and mental illness
are also planned.
Eastern State has about 160 patients on a daily
It would take about 21/2 years to construct a new
hospital once the state approves the proposal, Toy
Property use up in the air
It's unclear what would happen to the 68 acres that
Eastern State sits on now.
'Our focus is on the vision, the future, the
treatment modules and the design of the new
facility,' said Mark D. Birdwhistell, secretary of
the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. 'What
happens to the land is still an open item of
discussion and consideration.'
All options -- including selling the land to a
private developer, or selling or giving the land to
the city -- are being considered, Birdwhistell said.
In preparation for the move, former Vice Mayor Mike
Scanlon formed a task force last fall to study
possible uses for the land at the request of state
Sen. Ernesto Scorsone.
When Eastern State Hospital moves, it opens up '70
acres of very important real estate,' Scorsone said.
'We need some long-term planning on what that space
should include in the future. Even though it's state
property, the city as a whole has a real interest in
that. It's a really critical entry point into town.'
The city needs to develop a long-term plan so that
knee-jerk decisions aren't made when the hospital
moves, Scorsone said. 'The biggest fear is that
Eastern State moves out and we haven't done any
planning, and the first option that comes across is
The task force is in the early stages of its work
and hasn't reached any conclusions yet, said P.G.
Peeples, task force co-chairman. 'There's a lot to
be done in terms of fact finding, researching and
making sure that all issues are taken into
One immediate concern is the existence of unmarked
graves, said H. Foster Pettit, task force
Pettit has asked the city for legal guidance about
the obligation of a property owner regarding
remains, state law about the treatment of graves and
the process of moving graves.
Other questions include determining how many bodies
are on the property, where they are located and
whether developers can build around the bodies or if
they need to be moved, Pettit said. 'We need to find
out about the bodies and try to get better
Cemetery activists say there are at least 10,000
bodies buried at Eastern State. About 4,400 of them
are located in the hospital cemetery; the others are
scattered around the property.
Since the fall, Mary Hatton, coordinator of the
cemetery club's efforts to identify those who died
at the hospital and where they were buried, has
identified the names of 1,500 people who were buried
somewhere on the hospital's grounds. Hatton uses
census data, hospital records, death certificates
and information from relatives to identify the
Hatton recently received a new batch of documents
and will have thousands more bodies identified in
the next few months, Burris said.
'The most significant thing for me to always
remember is why we're there, which is to create a
dignified environment for people who died in the
place,' he said. 'Let it be understood that a
significant group of people believe they were
significant humans and deserve a respectful resting