Abandoned Mississippi: Kuhn Memorial State Hospital, Vicksburg

Tucked away on the Jackson Road (now Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.) between downtown Vicksburg and the Vicksburg National Military Park stands a huge abandoned hulk that today emanates despair but was for over a century a place of hope for poor citizens of Mississippi in need of medical attention.

Kuhn State Hospital started life as Vicksburg’s City Hospital back in 1832, in response to a smallpox outbreak. It took its place at this location, then a suburban estate with “a substantial house” in 1847. Run by Dr. George K. Birchett, and later his son, grandson, and great-grandson, the hospital served wounded during the Civil War and suffered the deaths of 16 doctors and 6 Catholic Sisters of Mercy during the Yellow Fever of 1878.

The state took over the operation of the hospital in 1871, and the institution was re-named the State Charity Hospital at Vicksburg. Other state-run charity hospitals (an interesting fact given the recent health care debate) were at Jackson, Laurel, Meridian, Natchez, and Biloxi–surely there were some north of I-20?

Confederate veterans stalked the halls of a specially built annex, constructed in 1901 (burned in a “mysterious fire” in 1918). And to top it off, the University of Mississippi operated its first medical school here in the academic year 1910-11.

This image, dated 1959, is from a dedication ceremony booklet for the new annex to the rear of the original building. The booklet is located in the MDAH subject file “KUHN MEMORIAL HOSPITAL STATE CHARITY”

In 1954, a former resident of Vicksburg, Lee Kuhn, having long since moved to New York City, died and left his estate of $400,000 to the Vicksburg Charity Hospital. In his will, Kuhn directed that a 7-person committee composed of three Jews, two Catholics, and two Protestants be formed to decide the best way to disburse the money. The committee decided that a new building would be the best use, and in 1959, the institution opened a large new facility to the rear of the original buildings. The institution was also renamed in honor of Mr. Kuhn. Changes in medicine and mission brought about yet another large building in 1962, this one replacing the antebellum “substantial house” and its 1909 annex with the brick building that greets a visitor today. Probably both the 1959 and the 1962 buildings were designed by Raymond Birchett, Vicksburg architect and great-grandson of the original Dr. Birchett.

The Kuhn closed in 1989, a victim of state politics and of course funding issues. Here’s how the Vicksburg Evening Post described the closure in its June 25, 1989 article “Kuhn Provided Long, Proud History of Medical Care”:

Kuhn Memorial State Hospital’s role in the history of Vicksburg comes to an end this week.

On Friday, state funding runs out for Kuhn, causing the charity institution to shut its doors.

State funding also runs out for Matty Hersee Hospital in Meridian and South Mississippi State Hospital in Laurel, Mississippi’s other two general charity hospitals.

. . . .

Through much of the hospital’s history, two topics have surfaced again and again as topics of interest: money and babies.

According to a 1944 Vicksburg newspaper article, ‘360 babies were born at the hospital last year, about 90 percent of them colored.’

From Jan. 1 to May 31, this year 72 babies started their lives at Kuhn. The hospital’s last baby was delivered this month.

State funding has been a perennial question for charity hospitals.

. . . .

‘Every two years or so there’s been talk about closing down Kuhn,’ nursing supervisor Ruth Christian said last week. ‘But nobody ever pushed the issue until (Gov. Ray Mabus) did this year.’

The Mississippi Legislature this year approved a $2.08 million budget for Kuhn Memorial. It also OK’d $2.13 million for Matty Hersee Hospital, $2.03 million for Laurel’s South Mississippi State Hospital and $99,642 for the State Eleemosynary Board.

Mabus, however, vetoed the support.

Kuhn has stood vacant for the two decades since this article, and as you can see in the pictures below, the results aren’t pretty. However, I was genuinely surprised to see how solid the two buildings are, apart from the missing windows, doors, and vandalized interiors. The bones of steel and concrete are solid. As for a use, I have no ideas, but maybe this post will inspire somebody to think of something and motivate them to get going.

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Categories: Abandoned Mississippi, Hospitals, Recent Past, Vicksburg

113 replies

  1. From all appearances it would seem that the Kuhn is headed for demolition by neglect. Rather a shame that the original buildings were destroyed. Do you think there is any reasonable hope that any part of the hospital could be saved?

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    • could have been when it first closed but as you can see vandalism has taken its toll on the building and it would prolly take several million dollars to do something of use for it now with all practical purposes it would be cheaper to raze this place and build another rather than try to restore this now.. just another wasted government building. supported by tax dollars.

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      • The Kuhn’s building should be destroyed, the weather,rats,and other creatures made more of a mess of what that building was in its past. Just destroy it. Its an eye sore,if it is haunted set them to wear they need to go.

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    • I was born here in August of 1985 and was delivered by a lady names Marilyn A. Johnson, CNM. Anyone know about her?

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  2. This changes my opinion of Ray Mabus. Interesting history lesson about the hospital, though. Thanks for the post!

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  3. OK, a quick google search on Ray Mabus and Kuhn hospital returned this 1989 article from the Orlando Sentinel, which makes a little more sense. Mabus proposed re-channelling the hospital funds into Medicaid so they could receive federal matching funds. Still not good for the buildings, though …

    January 31, 1989
    CHARITY HOSPITALS. Gov. Ray Mabus has proposed closing the three charity hospitals that the nation’s poorest state operates for its poorest people. Mabus says the poor would be better served if hospital money went instead into Medicaid and got federal funds. Opponents claim to have 100,000 signatures to keep the hospitals open. Mabus, a Democrat, wants to close Matty Hersee Hospital in Meridian, South Mississippi State Hospital in Laurel and Kuhn Memorial State Hospital in Vicksburg. The hospitals, set up in 1916, together maintain 199 of the state’s 15,800 hospital beds on a $6.8 million budget.

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  4. It is too bad that the Vicksburg Post’s archives are now pay-per-view, they ran a nice article last November about Kuhn Hospital. It contained an in-depth history of the hospital, interviews with former employees, and a look at the current ownership situation. If I recall correctly, the hospital is not owned by the state anymore but a private developer.

    I have an acquaintance here at MSU who is working on a thesis about disabled Northeast Mississippi Civil War veterans and, from what he has told me, you would be surprised at the paltry medical facilities in that area decades after the Civil War. I know that my home in the Shoals (Alabama) did not receive a dedicated hospital until World War I, and it was a larger-sized area even then, not a small town. Healthcare was not a much of a priority then or now for Southern leaders.

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    • I agree, and have vivid memories of this place which at one time was the only place for poor people with no healthcare. I was born here, July 1967, as was my sister four years earlier. My mother was born there in July 1943. My grandmother worked there for many years cleaning floors, and later died there in October 1981. To see that happen to the poor people’s hospital in the poorest state in the nation, with so much personal history brought water to my eyes when I found out it didn’t have to happen. But history in the state of Mississippi has always been mind blowing.. Heaven Help Us All….

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  5. I was born in that hospital in 1981, wish I had money to save it. There’s a lot of history in those buildings…

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  6. Was there the morning of 12/29/2010 – watch the tires for broken glass.
    The building is wide open, so like the Mayville KY hospital. There’s glass on the paving, but the building is unsupervised and open for urban explorers – some “common sense” safety issues, and lots of glass on the paved areas – so park by the ambulance awning (not under it)

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  7. I am a Paranormal Investigator and would love to get our Paranormal Group in there to do an Investigation. Anyone know who owns the Building now?

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    • Been in there several times..got TONS of EVP….

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      • I was just wondering what type of EVP’s you got.
        You know back in those days they really did not know how to treat psychiatric patients. I have bipolar disorder and it might be beneficial for you to take someone in there that has mental problems that would be able to relate and talk to the patients.

        I live in Texas. I had to great great aunts that died in state hospitals here in Texas. One was Terrell State Hospital and the other was Rusk State
        Hospital. Rusk was for the criminally insane. I know they lived in deplorable conditions and were treated badly and abused.

        Also just wanted to find out if you had any contact was any Civil War Confederate patients or doctors. Just curious.

        I have always wanted to be a paranormal investigator. I am what they call a sensitive. I am able to feel and hear some of the dead but I talk to them normally. I don’t talk to them like they’re not people. It makes me sick the way that some paranormal investigators on TV disrespect and treat the dead as if they were retarded. I think that is why the spirits get restless and just get pissed and walk off.

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  8. I delivered babies at Kuhn from 1980-1983. I am a Certified Nurse Midwife, educated in Jackson. I have stories about Kuhn you would NOT believe. I wonder what happened to the HUGE books in the basement recording the names, dates, and medical problems of patients going way back to 1900? The 4th floor was a minimum security prison. The inmates staffed the hospital, working jobs such as cleaning, clerking. Several became my good friends.
    Dee, you were born there in 1981? I could have delivered you!

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    • My surviving son was born May 1981 at Kuhn. I went through hell and back during my 36 1/2 hours of hard labor but, I would not trade it for anything in the world. They (Sis. Marcy & Dr. Pontis (sp?) were amazing! As well as a male nurse named Thomas! If it had not been for Kuhn and it’s staff, I would have lost both my babies at the same time. It really distresses me to know and see the photos of that miracle working place.

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      • Sr. Marcy was wonderful. Dr. Potnis is still alive, in Kentucky, but very ill. He was gifted and caring. There were many VERY committed people working there. It was a sad day when they shut it down.

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    • I was born at Kuhn on Saturday July 12, 1980 at 7:06pm…….Much of the stuff that you speak of i.e. inmates/workers and even the mental patients that were there i can still remember. I recently went to the location and saw the dilapidated state of the building and was in shock that it still stood. Somehow I still remember these things and remembered the severe lack of parking and the view of the Mississippi River from there.

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    • I would really like to hear your stories!! We went and explored that place and it was really awesome…would you please share some information with me. My email is misteeleereverns@yahoo.com

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    • Did you know Johnny B. Taylor? I hear she was one of the first black nurses employed. There should be some form of black history documentation noted for the first black nurses employed at Khun.

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      • I don’t remember her. I wonder when she was there?

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        • Johnnie Taylor worked the emergency room day shift until she retired.Long about 86 not sure of exact date.. she has since passed away.. So has nurse Dotson who worked ob/gyn dept Lydia Bryant worked on 5 th floor along side Pearl Thomas. Ruby Washington Ruth Christian and others,,, We had a reunion of all old employees a few years ago.. Eva Farrish who was a midwife nurse practitioner there has all of the history pretaining to that reunion,,, she is still alive. Ms Franco was charge nurse on 2nd floor in day and there were many capable nurses that are still alive who worked that floor as well as some who have gone on to be with their maker…

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        • My sister was real sick. as i was told there was on nurse that never gave up and brought my sister back to life.Jessica Lanne Smith .Mother was Sara Lynn Smith..Our step mother Was Cynthia Renee dickerson..

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      • my mother knew a wonderful black woman named “Bootsie” who was like a surrogate mom to many of the student nurses around 1941. I have a picture of her but do not know anything else about her. she appears to be in her 40s in the picture.I would love to share with her family how wonderful she was to my mom who was an orphan and learning to become a nurse.

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    • My Mother-in-law Carolyn Flether Peebles gave birth to my husband on December 19, 1982 @ Kuhn state hospital so you might have delived him! She said there wasn’t any air conditioning and that there was no pain medication….. OUCH!!

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    • My mom was a corrections officer there in the 80’s up until it was closed.

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    • I had a child there on Janaury 10, 1980, a little girl I was told. I was told that she was still birth. Reading this makes me wonder what really happen the morning I gave birth.

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    • My youngest son was born there! My neighbor and friend at that time was a nurse midwife and her name was Polly. I only wish I could remember her last name so that I could try to find her! My son was born there in 1980.

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    • I was born there on 19 of nov 1980. You must likely took care of me..

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    • Is there a way we could chat?

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    • You know they try to hide things when they shut down…. that is any hospital with a history of abuse and neglect. I would be interested and maybe talking to you on facebook Messenger about some of the things you may have witnessed. just curious..
      My facebook name is Mary Irelandforeva. If you want send me a friend request. I have been in prison in Texas for biting a police officer when I was 17 years old. I spent 7 months and 28 days locked up and Gatesville Texas. That is also a very haunted location. It used to be a boys state school… a lot of the children ended up dead and were severely abused and neglected.
      Also I have bipolar disorder. I had two great aunts that died and state hospitals for the insane and Texas. The same story of abuse and neglect. I would be willing to share any information I have as well.
      To me it is atrocious the way they treated these people. They were given lye soap. That burns the skin and I can imagine being a woman and having to wash my private parts with that soap.
      Physical abuse was one of the ways they used to control the patient’s. They also used some very controversial treatments. The women were raped by the staff.
      Anyway my name is Mary and if you want please contact me.
      Have a great day! Thank you!

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  9. It’s a possibility Janne, my family is heavily rooted in Vicksburg. I’m a Beamon, Walter Beamon at that, my uncle was a cop there for many years.

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  10. Dee, somewhere in the stuff I have packed for moving, I have a notebook recording the names of all the women whose babies I delivered. I will look in 1981 when I find that notebook! I am in touch with another nurse midwife from those days at Kuhn. I know she has a record of all her women too.

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  11. Awesome, I hope you find it and would like to keep in touch with you to hear all about Kuhn. As you well know, I know very little about it and I’m very intrigued of its history.
    dee_prodigal@yahoo.com

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  12. Found a Postcard image of the original Vicksburg City Hospital which became State Charity Hospital at Vicksburg with the Confederate Veterans Annex

    Lost of historical images of Vicksburg buildings in this digital archive collection

    Mississippi State Charity Hospital and Confederate Veterans Annex, Vicksburg, Miss
    Forrest Lamar Cooper Postcard Collection
    Mississippi Archives image

    http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/cooper/index.php?itemno=2792

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  13. Oh! That is beautiful! I walked through that front door almost daily for 3 years, 1980-1983.

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  14. I just thought of something else. Up the street from Kuhn Memorial was The Pest House. Anyone remember that? Long LONG ago, anyone with an infectious disease was put there until they recovered.

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  15. I was born at Kuhn in 1978. I remember I cut my foot when I was a toddler and my mom didn’t have a car, she picked me up and ran to Kuhn because it was a very bad cut. Its sad to see the hospital in that condition. When I vist Vicksburg, I slow down every time I pass by whats left of Kuhn.

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  16. Did anyone know of or work during 1978 in the labor and delivery floor??

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  17. Matty Hersee was eventually taken over by Meridian Community College and turned into dormitories. However, it sat vacant for years, and frankly it was pretty creepy. I remember riding past it as a child and SWEARING i saw ghosts in the windows. Obviously, my big brother had far too much fun filling my head with claptrap…

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  18. As a local paranormal investigator this place has intrigued me since I found out about it.Not being originally from here, I viewed it as just another building with a history to investigate. When you do step inside (and as one person said..there ARE common sense safety issues-you need to be careful if you go) you can feel the weight of history on your shoulders, with every breath, and every step. It is SO sad to see that place falling. Even in ruin the place is beautiful. There is some sort of work going on next to it and even inside it; someone is cleaning, or removing debris, and under the awning which separates the two buildings it looks like someone has tied a chain around part of the brick and sped off to tear down just one section of wall. It’s really sad. As for the paranormal, it IS home to many, many spirits. I’d love to get permission to go all out and do a full fledged investigation at night but there are, as I know, safety concerns both human and natural. If you get the chance to drive by and see it it truly is a breathtaking place. You don’t have to get out to appreciate it. I think it would be sooo nice to have that place rebuilt into a museum for civil war medicines or at least restored to a part of its former glory. It is sooo sad to see it like it is, but when you pull up beside it you actually feel the history. It is amazing.

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  19. I was wandering if any of you ladys that worked or knew of someone that worked at Kuhn might would know my grandmother, I personally dont know her , I was adopted, I do have a sister, I am just inquiring I have a sick son and would like to find her if she is still alive. thanks

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    • Does anybody on this list know anything about the “Pest House” not far from Kuhn where infectious patients were sent?

      I will be visiting Kuhn tomorrow around noon in case any fans of Kuhn want to join me.

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      • Janne, I married a man from Vicksburg and we talked about the Pest House and drove past the driveway many times. I remember we could see some of the house from the road. I was told that the patients that died were buried on the property. My daughter was born at Kuhn on 11/22/84, and I didn’t realize until a few years later — after the hospital had closed — that they’d put 11/23 on her birth certificate. :) In 1985, I was Dr. Potnis’ and Johnny Johnson’s secretary. Didn’t Dr. Potnis marry one of the midwives? Can’t remember her name.

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  20. I was born there, 12-19-1964 on a Saturday, the time was not posted on my birth cert, and my mother said she didn’t know, so I don’t know if i could retrieve those records some how, it means so much to me, I was moved to Texas when i was eight, I would like to get some history and images of it, and my grandparents died there also, can anyone help me?

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  21. Does anyone know what happened to the medical records from this hospital. My grandfather died there in about 1936.

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  22. Is this place still standing? I can’t find it on Google Maps!
    Thanks

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  23. I finally found this place on Google maps…now, it is ok to go and look around and take pictures of it? I know there has been mention of some police advising people to leave…but will it be ok if I go and look around?

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  24. We just drove right up to the front door, and I went in and wandered all around, upstairs, downstairs. There was no police presence. We were there long enough that if neighbors had wanted to call police, they could have. I delivered babies there 1980-1983.

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  25. I was born there in August 1960. I remember going there as a little girl. Under all the debris, there are still things that “spark memories” of this place. It would be interesting to hear what it was like in 1960,

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  26. What ever happened to the records, I was born there in 1959 and would be thrilled to have anything, my Mother passed years ago so I was just wondering, had a sister born in 1962 and one in 1969 the nurse named my baby sister, thought that was kind of neat, well her 1st name her middle name was after my Grandmother and grandfather.

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  27. My mother worked in admitting here in 1978-79. My little brother was born here in August of 79. I was scheduled to give birth here but was sent to Jackson when I went into labor early. I recall the inmates working here alongside my mom.

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    • Yes, the inmates did work right along beside us. Two of them were very good friends of mine. They were “trustees”. They lived on the top floor in the back.

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  28. Went yeserday with a couple of friends. Interesting building, I do suggest if you go there dont go by yourself for where its located is not safe. We walked the whole hospital and took pictures, got alot of orbs and several apreritions , got black shadows and voices. Plan on going back to take more pictures at night time….

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    • Interesting. I prowled around in there all by myself and heard/saw nothing. How disappointing. I did feel sad, since I loved working there.

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      • Next time you go take a camera with you and you wont be disappointed, its very active especially during the daytime, I can only imagine what you would pick up at night time. We plan on going this Friday and exploring it at night… If you are interested let me know and you are more than welcome to join us.

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  29. Was Kuhn considered the de facto black hospital for Vicksburg and the surrounding area? God bless.

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    • Kuhn was one of several “charity hospitals” in the South, used by both blacks and whites who couldn’t pay private providers. They paid what they could. There were plenty of white patients when I worked there. I can’t remember the percentage of blacks/whites. New Orleans also had a charity hospital. Finally the state of MS decided to stop funding Kuhn.

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  30. I suggest everyone go and explore while you still can … This place is gonna be demolished sometime in January or February of this coming year. Vicksburg’s building inspector gave the owners, a foundation in Yazoo City, 120 days on September 18th to decide what to do with it. The inspector said if nothing is said or done within that 120 days, the issue would be taken to the Mayor and Board of Alderman.

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  31. I was born at Kuhn on 10/13/1973 at 6:27 am I think Dr Nathan B Lewis was my moms doctor.

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  32. Anyone know where a state charity hospital was in Jackson and any information on it? My mom in law’s grandfather was there in 1913.

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  33. Janne Debes, could you please contact me

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  34. This is all so interesting. Any photos posted would be great !

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  35. We explored the kuhn hospital ruins on 7/19/14. Very neat place as I could imagine how it used to be. Would love to go back when I have more time. We could not find the basement entrance. Also there was a huge piece of machinery of some sort in the very back where it is open that we couldn’t figure out what it used to be. Every door has been ripped out, interior and exterior. The elevator shaft was probably one of the most eerie spots. So sad to see such a huge building destroyed that once was a resource to help the community.

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  36. I was born at Kuhn in 1970. And had my first child there. I hate that it is no more. I was watching a eposide of ghost asylum and never knew the history they spoke of

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