The Fairview Training Center May Have The Darkest History in Oregon

The Fairview Training Center was a state-run facility for people with developmental disabilities in Salem, Oregon, and had a very dark history. The unspeakable things that took place at this facility will make the hairs rise on your neck.


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Fairview was established in 1907 as the State Institution for the Feeble-Minded. The hospital opened on December 1, 1908 with 39 patients transferred from the Oregon State Insane Asylum.

Recently, Danielle Denham, an amazing photographer(ThePDX Photographer) in Portland shared with us some photos recently taken at the now abandon facility which we have included in this article.

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In 1981, more than 1,300 Oregonians with developmental disabilities lived at the Fairview Training Center in Salem, where for decades they were known as “inmates.”

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Prior residents at Fairview tell stories of being disciplined with leather cuffs, razor straps, cow whips, and even put in isolation cages.

 

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More than 2,600 forced sterilizations took place at Fairview—and that’s not all. Vasectomies, forced hysterectomies, tubal ligations and even castrations were requirements for patients to leave up through the late 70s. In 2002, then-Gov. John Kitzhaber issued a formal apology for these human rights violations.

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A Fairview resident described being disciplined with razor strops: “It stings really bad.” Others recalled:

“They were strict at Fairview. You got beat up, yelled at. They put us in closets.”

“They used their shoes to spank us also.”

“If you don’t behave yourself, they’d get you with the scalding hot water.”

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Kitzhaber also acknowledged other abuses. “Until the mid-1980s, if you could believe that, the staff of the institutions commonly used inhumane devices to restrain or control patients, including leather cuffs and helmets and straitjackets and inappropriately high dosages of sedatives and psychotropic medications,” he said.

 

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in 1980, a graduate student who was assigned to work at Fairview described horrific tales of residents being handcuffed to 60-pound blocks and forced to push them up and down the hall. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology found that between 1963 and 1987, residents of Fairview more than twice as likely to die from unnatural causes as people in Marion County who were not institutionalized.

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When the U.S. Department of Justice and the Health Care financing Administration finally investigated the horrible abuse that took place at the Fairview Training Center, they were appalled by the horrors. Federal funding was immediately yanked, and pressure from advocates and the government finally developed a long-term plan to permanently close the doors at Fairview.

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Before its closure in 2000, Fairview was administered by the Oregon Department of Human Services. At 1:15 p.m. on Feb. 24, 2000, the last resident left Fairview to begin his life in the community. DHS continued to operate the Eastern Oregon Training Center in Pendleton until October 2009.

We’d like to thank Danielle Denham for providing these photos. If you’d like to see some more of her great work, she features some pretty awesome abandon buildings all over Oregon. You can find her on Facebook at ThePDXPhotographer.

Read the full story on Fairview at The Oregonian

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  • nankani

    Thank you for sharing this story. Ive lived her my whole life since 1960 and did not know this. What a horrific thing to do to people and especially to ones who already suffered greatly

  • Heidi Mangold

    Since it’s abandoned is there a way of buying this place?

    • Summer Pepiot

      It’s been made into a complex of new houses.

      • Suz Brazeau Red Hawk

        So these buildings aren’t in existence any more?
        If they are who would I contact to learn more about them? Thanks for any info!

  • Bill

    My Grandmother worked there for a time. She would never talk about work, never discussed why she quit, and years later would only say she wished she’d never taken the job. By contrast my mom worked in one of the cafeterias at the Oregon State Hospital for years in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. I used to visit her frequently at work, and it was nothing like the descriptions of Fairview. OSH was institutional, but the patients seemed to have a lot more freedom to move around, and just be themselves. Mom became friends with a number of the patients and said she liked many of them better than so-called “sane” people.

  • Robert Buckalew

    The people that work there and committed these crimes should have been tried for human rights violations!

  • Cindy Lee Thurman

    My sister was an ‘inmate’ there for most of her life. My mother in law and husband both worked there for awhile. I hated going there to visit as a child. I hated that she was there. When the residents would get in a fight, as often happened, the aids would just stand back and watch so they themselves would not get hurt. We picked her up for a day visit once and she had just been beaten by a gang of patients. They beat and kicked her in the face and when we arrived her nose was broken and her nose, mouth, and eyes were split open. It was horrific! When she came home for a weekend she would have half a lunch sack of medications with her and was often in a catatonic state. But, the state did them no favors when they closed Fairview. They were sent to group homes and other places. She had been in Fairview for nearly 30 years and was suddenly supposed to go get a job and learn to pay bills etc. That would have been fine with some training over time. The depression of being thrown into the real world nearly killed her. It was almost as bad as having been in Fairview. She is now 65 years old, lives in a group home, and loves spending time with family. The stories of straightjackets and padded cells are all true. I could tell you stories that would bring you to tears as I was for years.