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Glendale, California

Rockhaven Sanitarium

Once a place of peaceful repose, this sanitarium now faces an uncertain future. 

Scores of sanitariums once operated in the Crescenta Valley, and then they all disappeared—except Rockhaven. 

Rockhaven Sanitarium was founded in 1923 by psychiatric nurse Agnes Richards. After having worked firsthand in state-run asylums, Richards had witnessed the nightmarish treatment of those who suffered from nervous disorders and mental illness and wanted to provide a better option for patients. Her small, independently operated Rockhaven Sanitarium began with but one little rock house (hence, rock haven). This made it America’s first woman-founded mental health facility.  

As Rockhaven’s reputations for peaceful conditions and gorgeous scenery spread over the years, it attracted more and more patients, some of whom arrived quietly despite Hollywood’s fan fair; Billie Burke, aka Glinda the Good Witch, spent time at Rockhaven, as did Marylin Monroe’s mother, not to mention countless others. Eventually Richards’ facility expanded to more than three acres in size, absorbing several neighborhood houses to accommodate its growing population. 

In 2001, Rockhaven was sold to a private hospital. Due to a lack of profitability, Rockhaven was officially shut down in 2006, but saved from demolition by the City of Glenhaven. Scattered throughout the site, many traces of the old garden sanctuary remain, including fountains, stone pathways, arches, and cottages. A non-profit organization dedicated to commemorating the good done at Rockhaven occasionally organizes tours of the site, preserving the site’s unique history for generations to come. 

At the time of its closure, Rockhaven was the last institution of its kind in operation. Throughout its 80-plus years in operation, Rockhaven was known for providing respite amidst a landscape of struggle, both internal and external. Today it is heralded as America’s first feminist asylum. Despite such praise, Rockhaven’s grounds now sit eerily vacant as city officials debate what should be done with the historic landmark of healing.