Public Radio from UA Little Rock
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Encyclopedia of Arkansas Minute: The Arkansas State Hospital

The Arkansas State Hospital has seen a number of changes in its 147-year history.

The General Assembly appropriated $50,000 to create the State Lunatic Asylum in 1873, but political battles kept it from being built until 10 years later.

The asylum was often overcrowded, leading to a series of expansions, and its name was changed to the Arkansas State Hospital for Nervous Disorders in 1905. It became the Arkansas state hospital in 1933.

Physically capable patients were put to work on a dairy farm in rural Pulaski County in the early 1930s, and the Benton Farm Colony, designed to hold 2,000 inmates, opened in 1936. Farming operations ended in 1957 as attitudes toward the treatment of patients changed.

The Benton unit, now the Arkansas Health Center, was updated in 1964 and the new Little Rock facility was built adjacent to UAMS in 2008, with a focus on helping the mentally ill return to society.

To learn more, visit