Agnews Developmental Center

San Jose, California

BUILT: Unknown
OPERATION TIME: 1885 to 1972
STATUS: Unknown


Originally opening as the “Great Asylum for the Insane” in 1885, the center was the site of Santa Clara Valley’s greatest loss of life during the San Francisco quake of 1906. The patients who survived the ordeal escaped. There were 117 casualties, both patients and staff alike. Their bodies were buried in mass graves on site.

After the disaster, the asylum was rebuilt and reopened around 1911 as “Agnews State Mental Hospital”. The facility was like a self-contained town, as it included a farm that raised pigs and vegetables, a steam-generating power plant for heating, and a fire department.

The village had the largest population in the South San Francisco Bay area at the time, and it even had its own train station. The station remained there up until fire and vandalism led to its demolition in the 1990s. In 1926, Agnews opened a second campus two miles east of San Jose that was designed for people with developmental disabilities.

The center supported programs for the mentally ill up until 1972, when the facility converted over to exclusive care for people with developmental disabilities. The Agnews Developmental Center is believed to be haunted due to the tragedy of the 1906 quake, especially since the bodies were all buried in the same unmarked grave.




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