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 project.

"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 Baesler said.

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 neighborhood.

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.




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 highway department.

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 hospital grounds.

"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 anticipated.

"There really is no way to tell," Richardson said. "We don't disturb the remains."

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 mercury.

"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 there.

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.



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 million.

"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 south side.

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.



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 project began.


"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 cost.

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 hospital.

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.



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 company continued.

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," Neal said.

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.



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 remains.


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 said yesterday.

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 telephone interview
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 stay."

"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 state.

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 actually were.

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 hospital property.

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.




Published: 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 cemetery.

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





Published: July 16, 2006,  Lexington Herald-Leader, Page A1, Author: Emily Yahr


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 the cemetery.


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 cemetery.


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.


Many unknowns

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 there.


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 originally thought.


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 State Hospital.


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 is uncertain.


Officials at Eastern State Hospital declined to comment for this story, saying only that

they are not responsible for the future of the cemetery.


"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 the grounds.


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 members.


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 buried there.


"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 patients.


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 7, 2007


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 downtown Lexington.

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, Burris said.

Bodies have already been discovered during previous construction projects.

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 State Hospital.

'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 two cities.

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 basis.

It would take about 21/2 years to construct a new hospital once the state approves the proposal, Toy said.

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 accepted.'

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 consideration.'

One immediate concern is the existence of unmarked graves, said H. Foster Pettit, task force co-chairman.

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 information.'

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 people.

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 place.'





Naming the Forgotten - The Eastern State Hospital Project

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