Central State Hospital, the sprawling facility housing the criminally insane just outside of Petersburg, began in (what is now) Richmond city limits. The primitive complex was adjacent to today’s Mosby and Fairmount Avenues.
After Emancipation in Virginia, some former slaves were given small tracts of land on which to raise their families. But many others were left to fend for themselves. A portion of them wound up in local jails on minor charges of theft. By 1868, the small jails were overburdened with destitute freedmen.
Howard’s Grove, former Confederate military hospital, was quickly converted into a complex for “the care and treatment of sick and homeless (African-Americans).” The site spanned both sides of today’s Mosby Street.
According to several sources, such as Dr. Wyndham Blanton’s Medicine in Virginia in the Ninteenth Century, the complex rapidly destabilized — due to crowding — and in 1885 moved to its current location on the edge of Petersburg, as the Central Asylum.