History of Northern Wisconsin Center

Picture of NWC Historical Marker

Governor Lucius Fairchild addresses the legislature to call attention to "another class of unfortunates for whom substantial provision should be made by the state. I allude to imbecile and idiotic children…for whom, under our present system, there seems to be no place…."

Bills to create an institution fail in: 1871, 1876, 1877, 1885, 1887, 1891, 1893, 1895

April 9, 1895:
The state enacts legislation to create a "Home for the Feeble-Minded" in Wisconsin and appropriates $100,000 for land and buildings. The Board of Control is empowered to acquire, by purchase or donation, sufficient land and erect suitable buildings.

Note: The three "objects" which prompted the foundation of the Home:

  1. To relieve families overburdened with an "idiot" child.
  2. To curtail the reproduction of the feeble minded and the epileptic by institutionalizing feebleminded women of child bearing age.
  3. To educate the "imbecile" to the highest sphere of usefulness.

After inspecting sites throughout the state, the Board of Control accepts the offer of Chippewa Falls of 671 acres of land, plus $24,500, and locates the Home for the Feeble-Minded on the Chippewa River at Silver Spring Park, 1.5 miles upstream of the city. The board uses part of the cash presented by Chippewa Falls to purchase more land and ultimately takes possession of 1021 acres.

Why Chippewa Falls?
It was perceived as a healthy place to live.

June 18, 1897:
The first "inmate" was received at The Wisconsin Home for Feeble-Minded; 213 children were admitted by October.

Population 665; 131 employees

Renamed The Northern Wisconsin Colony and Training School

Chippewa Herald Telegram report "Finds Colony Attendants Over Worked"

Population  peeked at 2,203;  250 employees

Renamed Northern Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled

Population 547; employment peaked at 926 employees

Northern Center celebrates 100 years; population 302; 689 employees

Northern Center begins significant downsizing to end long-term care; population 172; 525 employees

Downsizing ceased with a reduction of 152 clients; 386 employees.  Northern Center transforms into the EXCEL Short-term Treatment Unit for adults.

Children are admitted to the EXCEL Treatment Unit

For additional historical information view Island Of Refuge; a book detailing the history of Northern Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled from 1897 to 1997.

Last Revised: September 15, 2016