The Hillcrest Building, c. 1921 Spring Grove State Hospital

Still extant, the Hillcrest Building, also known as the "Criminal Building," was built in 1921 under the direction of Spring Grove Superintendent J. Percy Wade. It is historically significant because it was the first building constructed specifically for the care and treatment of mentally ill prisoners to be built at a state psychiatric hospital anywhere in the United States. As originally designed, many aspects of the Hillcrest Building resembled a jail; for example, standard jail cells (complete with thick iron bars*) were maintained in the basement and were intended for unruly "inmates." That not withstanding, at the time that it was constructed the building represented a major milestone in what remains an ongoing struggle to provide medically appropriate psychiatric care to forensic patients. The forerunner of today's Clifton T. Perkins Hospital in Jessup, Maryland, the Hillcrest Building had capacity for 60 patients and cost $136,000 to build. A recreation hall was added to right side of the building in 1932. Some people who are familiar with Spring Grove today may be surprised to learn that the Hillcrest Building is still standing. It's sometimes overlooked as part of the hospital's legacy because it's located on the 400 + acre parcel of land that had once been Spring Grove's farmland, but is now part of the campus of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). Records indicate that, for security purposes, the building was intentionally constructed on the hospital's farmland, far away from the hospital's other patient care buildings -- most of which were located in the area that comprises the current campus of Spring Grove, north of Wilkens Avenue. The farmland portion of the hospital's property; i.e. the 400+ acres south of Wilkens Avenue that included the Hillcrest Building was transferred from Spring Grove to the University of Maryland in 1965. It served as the University's Administration Building for a time and then, more recently, as UMBC's Residential Life Office. The basement; i.e., the portion of the Hillcrest Building that had once held the building's barred isolation cells, was converted into a social club called "The Rattskeller" for UMBC students. (See #18 on the UMBC Campus Map.) The Hillcrest Building has been vacant since 2000 and, reportedly, a recent campus plan for UMBC indicates that it has been slated for demolition.

* The iron-bar door from one of these cells is now located in the Spring Grove Hospital Center Alumni Museum.