Lakeland Asylum Tunnels6:23 AM
Louisville, Kentucky is a place with a series of underground spaces, caves, and tunnels. Most were built before the 1930's in order to move shipments from the river docks to downtown buildings and nearby neighborhoods.
In E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park, we find one of those tunnels. Known to the locals as "Sauerkraut Cave/Tunnel" it sits underneath what use to be Lakeland Asylum. In 1873, the fourth Kentucky state mental hospital was established on the grounds off Lakeland Road. What started as a single brick building housing 370 patients, it quickly grew into 15 buildings and 5,000 patients, even though the hospital was only built to house 3,500 patients.
Not all patients at Lakeland had mental disorders. Some suffered brain injuries, mental retardation, or were simply elderly people who could not afford a nursing facility or retirement home. Deaths went unreported, uninvestigated, and multiple records were "lost." It is unknown the exact number of bodies that are buried on the grounds of E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park from those who were murdered, committed suicide, or were lucky enough to die from old age. The photographs below are of what was known as a popular escape route for those crafty enough to escape the high-security asylum and risk the brutal punishments if caught.
As times changed and new policies and medications were made available, come 1980 the asylum was struggling to keep numbers up. With patients staying an average of two weeks instead of a lifetime, it was on the downward spiral. In 1986, a new modern facility was built in Louisville, Kentucky, and Lakeland Asylum was demolished in 1996 and the land became part of E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park.