Crazy relaxation at the looney bin.

It may sound a little crazy, but next time you get the chance you should really stop by the Athens Insane Asylum…I mean the Ridges.

The Ridges (formerly the Athens Insane Asylum), was a functioning mental health hospital from 1874 to 1993. Ohio University obtained the property in 1989, the land grab almost doubled the size of the Athens, Ohio main campus.

Despite its marred past of mistreating the mentally ill and partaking in acts of quackery such as lobotomy and shock therapy, along with its believed connection to the supernatural, the Ridges is a perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon.

This piece of 19th century architectural gold sits atop the hill (or the ridge rather) on the south side of the Hocking River directly across from West Green. Take a walk out Richland Ave. past the roundabout. Then you will come to a park. Hang a right and then head up the rugged brick road.

(Photo: Eben George
Large black birds perched atop the historic Ridges complex at Ohio University. (Photo: Eben George)

The sprawling grassy knolls of the Ridges make for a perfect picnic perch, lofted above the Hocking River Valley. Bring a friend or a special companion along with you. Layout on a blanket, soak up some rays and raise your serotonin levels with some good ol’ fashion vitamin D.

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The beautiful green space at the Ridges makes for a perfect place to collect your thoughts, hit the books and hang with friends. (Photo: Eben George)

If being lazy and lethargic isn’t your thing, then get active and in touch with your nature side. Take a hike on one of the Ridges hiking trails. The favorite trail among students is the Ridges Cemetery Nature Walk. The gravel trail winds through the hill littered, dense wooded area surrounding the grounds.

The cemetery is somewhat of an eerie place, old, decrepit grave markers are scattered throughout a clearing on the hill. Many of the markers bear no name, rather just a number to identify the deceased patients. The lack of names is due to the stigma surrounding the mentally ill during the early days neuroscience and mental healthcare.

It doesn’t take long to notice that many of the buildings at the Ridges are in ill-repair. Despite the crumbling facade, the future does look bright for the the Ridges.

In 2015 OU announced that it has developed a tentative plan to make major renovations to the existing buildings. The plan also includes utilizing the land for new structures.

The university has yet to set a timeline and funding plan for the project in stone. However, the 700-acre complex presents the university with its greatest opportunity for physical expansion. This need for expansion becomes more evident as the main campus population inches closers toward 25,000

Ohio University has already renovated serval of the structures at the Ridges. Most notably the asylum’s administration building, now know as Lin Hall. It boast iconic victorian towers and a breathtaking three tiered porch. Inside the beautiful Scofield creation now resides the Kennedy Museum of Art .

Lin Hall's stunning Victorian era towers were designed by the prominent Cleveland architect, Levi Scofield, in 1868. (Photo: Eben George)
Lin Hall’s stunning Victorian era towers were designed by the prominent Cleveland architect, Levi Scofield, in 1868. (Photo: Eben George)

Regardless of your interest, the Ridges is a perfect place to unwind from the tightly wound spool of college life. Go and catch up on your R and R before you wind up being in need of a lobotomy yourself.

 

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