60th anniversary of Huntington Hospital fire - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

60th anniversary of Huntington Hospital fire

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On November 26, 1952, a fire began in the basement of the Huntington State Hospital, today known as the Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital.

It's been 60 years since the fire that killed 14 women and children.

Five of the victims were young girls, 15 or younger. The others were women, the oldest was 89-years-old.

There were about 275 patients in the three-story brick building at the time the fire began.

The fire burned for about two hours and was contained to the first two floors but thick smoke moved through the entire building.

Below is a list of those who perished in the Huntington State Hospital fire:

  • Ada Carver, 89, Huntington
  • Joyce Tucker, 20, Fairmont
  • Elizabeth Bright, 31, Wellsburg
  • Evangeline Elzy, 15, Dunbar
  • Patricia Long, 15, Sutton
  • Lena Wentz, 11, Cabell County
  • Lillian Gould, 36, Huntington
  • Geraldine Curry, 26, Mingo County
  • Cassie Summerfield, 44, Huntington
  • Avanele Keifer, 15, Huntington
  • Ethel Munday, 68, Charleston
  • Helen Findley, 33, Sistersville
  • Patricia Clark, 14, Vallscreek, McDowell County
  • Madaline Preston, 24, Maidsville, Monongalia County

Two other fires occurred at the state hospital within two years of the deadly blaze -- one in a third floor sewing room and the other in a basement storage bin, according to the article.

Two elderly women were also listed as in serious condition from burns.

The only other person listed as injured was a Huntington fireman who suffered a broken foot when a battering ram fell on him.

The hospital was established by the legislature as an insane asylum in 1897 and called the Home for Incurables. At the time of its inception, the public viewed such hospitals as places where the mentally ill were placed to remove them from society for custodial care. The tall wire fence and iron gates gave the facility in Huntington the appearance of a penal institution rather than a hospital. The gates were taken away in 1950, and the gate house at the hospital entrance was removed in 1961.

The site, consisting of 30 acres of land, was donated to the state by the Chamber of Commerce of the city of Huntington. On the eastern edge of Huntington, the hospital fronts on Norway Avenue. In 1901, the name was changed to West Virginia Asylum, and the patient census was 150. The peak patient population was about 1,460 in 1956. In 1916, the name was changed to Huntington State Hospital.

In July 1958, the vocational rehabilitation center was established at Huntington State Hospital, the first in the nation to be located on the same grounds with a state hospital. The center offered vocational, social, psychological, medical, and related services necessary to enable the patient to prepare for a return to community living.

In 1995, the legislature again changed the facility's name, renaming it Huntington Hospital. During the October 1999 celebration of the hospital's centennial, Governor Cecil Underwood announced the renaming of Huntington Hospital as the Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital, a tribute to Dr. Mitchell-Bateman's lifetime career of helping the mentally ill. The 90-bed psychiatric hospital is administered by the Department of Health and Human Resources. Twelve buildings are located on the site.