In the post-war era, Oklahoma had a significant number of children diagnosed with mental disabilities requiring institutionalization, but the two schools operated by state mental health officials at Enid and Pauls Valley had become antiquated and overcrowded and dated back almost to statehood. Providing modern care for these children became a priority for Governors Raymond Gary and J. Howard Edmondson in the 1950s and legislation funding a new facility near Tulsa was approved in 1959.
The new facility was built on land donated to the state by successful oilman Wiley G. Hissom. Hissom operated an Angus cattle farm as a hobby on the 85 acres located five miles northwest of Sand Springs along the Arkansas River. In 1954 he donated it to Oklahoma State University as an experimental farm. However, when it seemed the school was not making full use of it, he helped arrange for the land to be transferred to the state for the purposes of a residential training center for mentally disabled children.
After nearly five years and $7 million, the Hissom Memorial Center opened to 1200 patients on March 7, 1964. It was heralded as a marvel in the mental health field (especially after 300 cage-like cribs were removed) and referred to as The City of Hope. Among it’s 24 buildings were medical facilities and dorm-like residences which were seen as an improvement over the old turn-of-the-century institutions.
In the mid-1980s a group called Homeward Bound brought a suit against the center in hopes of closing it down and placing patients into communities and integrating them into society as much as possible, contending it was more humane and much cheaper than institutionalization. Indeed, court-appointed observers reported a “prison-like atmosphere” and considered Hissom a “human-development emergency” and an “educational disaster.” A federal judge ordered the facility closed in 1987, but it was 1994 when the last patient left and the center was mothballed.
Since that time rehabilitation development of the facility has been elusive and, though money has been appropriated to raze the area, it has yet to happen.
WARNING: Hissom Memorial Center is patrolled by the Sand Springs Police department due to vandals and trespassers. They do carry weapons, and will arrest those caught on the property. DO NOT GO TO THIS DANGEROUS LOCATION UNLESS YOU HAVE PERMISSION.