Can’t Miss Experiences at the Central State Hospital Campus
Since its founding in 1842, the Central State Hospital Campus (originally known as the Georgia State Lunatic, Idiot, and Epileptic Asylum) has been one of Milledgeville’s most well known and complex sites. The site gained national recognition during the 1960s as the worlds’ largest mental institution with over 12,000 patients, 6,000 employees, and more than 8,000 acres of land. Today, Central State Hospital serves over 200 existing patients and has downsized to roughly 2,000 acres of land.
The campus is active throughout the year with various experiences available throughout the grounds. Just a short trip from Atlanta, here are six can’t miss opportunities to explore the former Central State Hospital Campus further.
1. RIDE THE TROLLEY
For those interested in exploring the history of the former behavioral health institution, regular trolley tours are your perfect chance. Board 'Milly' the trolley and set out on a guided driving tour through the grounds of the former Central State Hospital, including a stop at Cedar Lane Cemetery. Hear about the history of the institution as well as the redevelopment of the grounds from a former Central State employee and tour guide.
Tours are offered monthly and are on sale the first Monday of that tour's month. Tickets are $30. All ticket purchases are non-refundable and not able to be exchanged. Call the Visitor's Center to reserve your tickets at (478) 452-4687.
2. EXPLORE CEDAR LANE CEMETERY
In 1997, a cemetery restoration project began at the Central State Hospital which created a movement nationwide to memorialize patients buried at state psychiatric hospitals. The restoration project spun from the discovery of nearby neglected cemeteries that held over 25,000 people. The Georgia Consumer Council pledged to restore the burial grounds and build a memorial. A grassroots campaign raised funds to build a gate and display 2,000 numbered iron markers displaced from graves over the years. A life-size bronze angel was placed in the Cedar Lane Cemetery to serve as a guardian. Stroll through the cemetery and learn more about the history behind Central State Hospital.
3. STAY THE NIGHT
Make this experience even more special by staying on the grounds of the former largest mental asylum in the world. This 1928 bungalow is a fully renovated craftsman situated on the corner of a large pecan grove, across from the Central State Hospital infirmary. During your stay, walk, drive or take the trolley tour around Central State to explore the fascinating history of this hospital. Though the inside of the buildings are closed to the public, tourists can view the grounds and observe the stunning architectural structures built in the 1800s.
4. RUN THE THRILLER 5K
Looking for an event to get your heart pounding? Join the Milledgeville Young Professionals as they host the frightfully fun 9th Annual Thriller 5K in October. The Thriller 5K loops racers through the most historic and iconic points on the Central State Hospital campus. Runners beware - for a fun Halloween twist, zombies chase the racers around the 5K loop. The event benefits Keep Milledgeville-Baldwin Beautiful & Zeta Tau Alpha - Georgia College to benefit Breast Cancer Education & Awareness. Dates and information for this event have not been announced yet.
5. TAKE A DRIVING TOUR
Take a self-guided Central State Hospital Campus Driving Tour that highlights the historic buildings on campus, the history behind the hospital and the clients that resided there. A brochure containing a map and scannable QR codes for narrations about each stop on your phone will take you through the tour. Brochures are available for pick up at the Visitor's Information Center, 200 West Hancock Street, and the Just Imagine Cottage, 95 Depot Circle Drive, on the campus grounds.
6. BIKE THE APRIL FOOLS RIDE
Take two wheels and plan a scenic pedal with Bike Walk Baldwin’s 16th annual April Fools Ride! Hosted on Saturday, April 30, 2022, the annual ride kicks-off overlooking the pecan grove of the former Central State Hospital campus. Featuring a variety of routes, climbing terrain and easy-going fun, there is a great ride option for cycling enthusiasts of various levels!