The Dark History of an Abandoned Institution

In Arvada, Colorado, there was an abandoned structure when I was a teenager. As the former Colorado State Home and Training School, often called Ridge Home or the Home for Mental Defectives, was located there, children inevitably told tales of the eerie “insane asylum.”

When I first started this blog, I wanted to share scary tales in time for Halloween, but I soon discovered that the real history of the former Ridge Home is far more sinister than most ghost stories. I was able to locate a history of articles that explained the intricate history of the institution by using the Western History subject index newspaper database and clipping files.

View of Colorado State Home and Training School (also known as Ridge Home), an institution for the mentally handicapped, in Ridge, Jefferson County, Colorado; shows dormitories and lawn.


The issues Ridge Home faced during the decades it was open were detailed in article after article.

During the 1940s, forced sterilization was a common practice.
An administrator was mentioned in a newspaper story from the 1950s, stating that many of the adult patients at the facility were there only because their families had abandoned them, despite the fact that many of them were far too intellectually competent to be there. He attributed the error to the patient’s inexperience at the time of admission and subpar testing procedures.
A portion of the site had to be closed in the 1970s due to shifting earth caused by wall and foundation fractures.
The buildings’ absence of functional escape routes in case of emergency and fire escapes contributed to the assessment of insufficient fire safety.There were allegations of resident neglect in the 1980s as a result of understaffing and inadequate financing for staff training.
After being found guilty of abusing many patients and boasting about it to acquaintances, at least one staff worker was sent to prison.

According to a newspaper article from 1988, homeless persons seeking warmth and thrill-seeking teens are constantly breaking in.

Ridge Home was permanently closed by 1992.

Even after it was suddenly closed down because of budget constraints, the building continued to be furnished with toys, beds, and equipment. There were asbestos leaks coming from ripped steam pipes, and graffiti was all over the walls.

Image of nurse holding cup with child drinking

Ms. Raftery, Ridge Home

Throughout the home’s lengthy existence, there have been many kind employees and administrators; not all of the stories have been about financial difficulties and accusations of mistreatment.

According to a 1959 Denver Post article, the 670 kids at the facility referred to the administrator, Edith Raftery, as “mom.” The article also noted that she had not taken a vacation from the house in more than 17 years and that she was renowned for providing high-quality care. The facility hosted a high school graduation ceremony for five of its residents in June of 1955.

Most of the issues that the Ridge Home has faced over the years have been related to insufficient finance, which prevented it from addressing the wide range of issues it has encountered.

The abandoned center’s troubled past is undoubtedly frightening, whether or not the claims about it being haunted are accurate. The structure is currently the location of a sizable chain business and is no longer standing, but Western History and Genealogy’s reference materials allow you to learn more about its past.

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