Tuesday, September 2, 2014

From Camarillo State Hospital to CSU Channel Islands

From Wikipedia:
California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI, CSU Channel Islands, known informally as CI) is a four-year public comprehensive university located outsideCamarillo, California in Ventura County. CI opened in 2002 as the 23rd campus in the California State University system, succeeding the Ventura County branch campus of CSU Northridge. The campus had formerly been the Camarillo State Mental Hospital. It has been and continues to be the setting for numerous television, film and music video productions. CI is located midway between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles in Camarillo, at the intersection of the Oxnard Plain and northern most edge of the Santa Monica Mountain range. While the main campus is not located on the Channel Islands, the university operates a scientific research station on Santa Rosa Island.[5]
Channel Islands offers 53 types of Bachelor's degrees, 3 different Master's degrees, and 6 teaching credentials.[6][7] It does not confer Doctoral degrees. In the Fall of 2012, the university enrolled the largest amount of students in its 10 year history with 4,920 students including undergraduate and postgraduate. Since its establishment, the university has awarded nearly 7,000 degrees

Years ago, when I still lived in Oxnard, I went to Camarillo State Hospital/Developmental Center several times. When I was working with children with developmental disabilities at a pre-school, I attended some classes on the center's campus.
I also had a Camp Fire Girls group there of grammar school age girls with disabilities. Though the outside of the campus was beautiful with Spanish style buildings and in a beautiful setting surrounded by hills, the inside was not so wonderful. When I went to be with the girls, I was taken to a locked door, put in a small room, the door was locked behind me, the next door unlocked where my girls waited for me, then the person who let me in left and I was locked in. I brought my supplies with me and believe it or not had a great time teaching Camp Fire songs, making crafts, etc. with these young girls. Frankly, I don't remember how I got out, except that someone came and got me--but there was no cell phones in those days and certainly no signaling device in the room. All I remember was the girls and I both had fun.

There are some terrible stories reported about the state hospital back then, particularly the mental health part. However, I had a friend who spent some time there as a patient, and she didn't have anything like what was reported to say about the place.
This past weekend, we made a trip to the town of Camarillo to see relatives and I decided I wanted to see how CSU Channel Islands looked. Wow! What a gorgeous campus.

The bell tower was there back when it was a state hospital.
The new university is beautiful. Most of the buildings are brand new, but it looks like some have been refurbished from the old ones, though I read there are abandoned buildings still there. I did see some old courtyards. 
On line there are some tales of the place being haunted--fun to read about.
Back when it was a state hospital many movies were made there. 
People have written books about what went on there in the areas used for the mentally ill. No wonder Governor Ronald Reagan closed most of these places. Unfortunately, nothing much has replaced them and a good part of our homeless population are the cast-off mentally ill.
When the place was closed, those residents who were developmentally disabled were moved to Porterville Developmental Center and many of the psychiatric technicians relocated to Portervlle and the surrounding areas. Now, most of the residents have been moved into small facilities in the community.
There is a lot of fodder for murder mysteries in the history of Camarillo State Hospital, but I doubt I'll ever write about it.
I am happy to see that they've put that beautiful area to a great use. I suspect that many of the students have no clue about the history of the place--though I understand some are fascinated by all the ghost stories.
Oh, and in case you're wondering about the name of the university, Off the coast of Oxnard and Hueneme, the two beach towns next to Camarillo are the Channel Islands. I can understand why they used that for the name rather than UCSB Camarillo--though that would have made more sense.


Lorna Collins - said...

Larry was part of the team who worked on the transition from hospital to campus. Actually, most of the buildings (except the new industrial-design library, of course) are the original buildings--at least the shells. The architecture is fabulous. The California Spanish-style buildings were constructed by the CCC and completed around 1938. The old, overgrown garden at the south end of the campus is the setting (to be fictionalized, of course) of my next ghost story. The old hospital building was torn down to build the new library, but at least one ghost haunts the basement...

Billie Johnson said...

A forthcoming novel from OTP, A DUTY TO BETRAY, is set in this facility...and depicted during its final days as a hospital. Rumors are that this was the basis for the Eagle's famous song 'Hotel California", though that is denied by those supposedly in the know.

I'll have to put this on my 'to visit' list!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

The architecture was beautiful when it was a state hospital/developmental center, even more beautiful now.

Daughter told me that the students now like to visit the supposedly haunted barn.