In 1886, the Territorial Legislature established the Wyoming State Hospital, originally named the Wyoming State Asylum for the Insane, to provide care for mentally ill citizens. The site chosen for the hospital was at the southern edge of Evanston on a hill overlooking the town.
The first building, completed in 1887, contained male and female wards, offices and staff living quarters. It burned in 1917. The remaining buildings at the north end of the grounds - all of red brick and of similar architectural styles - were constructed between 1910 and 1932. These buildings are linked by underground tunnels used to transport patients and meals during Wyoming's cold winters. Tree-studded lawns, created in the late 1910s, were intended to produce a serene landscape for patients. The legislature stipulated that the hospital grounds consist of at least 100 acres so the land could be farmed to produce income to offset expenses. The hospital maintained a large farming operation at the southern end of the campus. Patients and staff raised cattle, sheep, chickens, and hay and vegetable gardens. The farm produced food for the kitchen and, in some years, considerable surplus to sell.
In the 1950s and 1960s, new drugs and community - based treatment for the mentally ill greatly reduced the hospital's patient population. By the beginning of the 21st century, the older buildings were abandoned and operations moved to a new facility at the south end of the campus. Today, the peaceful atmosphere of the older campus belies the human suffering that took place here. A poignant reminder of the stigma attached to mental illness is the hospital cemetery that lies across the interstate highway. There, dozens of unmarked graves attest to the lives of those shunned by society and abandoned by their families.