If you've ever looked at some early maps of Greenwich, you may have been surprised to see a caption for a Blythewood Sanitarium on Indian Rock Road off Orchard Street in Cos Cob. This is where the Greenwich Baptist Church is now located across the street from Central Middle School. The medical center was established by Mrs. Anna C. Wiley and her husband, Dr. William H. Wiley, in 1905. It operated until 1965, when the Baptist Church bought the property.
Mrs. Wiley was a nurse, who worked in mental hospitals in Canada and the United States. She met her husband in a hospital while working as a nurse. Dr. William Wiley had been born in Chester PA, and was educated at The Friends School of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania. Mrs. Wiley had a reputation for being kind and philanthropic, and gave her patients exceptional treatment. She believed patients should not be confined to buildings with a cold atmosphere. They should be given freedom to move around. Part of the rehabilitation should include creative outlets such as arts and crafts. Mrs. Wiley was definitely progressive in her approach to mental health treatment.
The Sanitarium complex at one time featured 8 main buildings, 8 cottages, a chapel, an occupational therapy building and a small golf course on 50-acres of land. Only the chapel remains today. A small stream bisects the property. It was known to be a rehabilitation center for the wealthy, although "charity" patients were included in the program but not identified.
A big iron gate marked the entrance to Blythewood. Next to the gate was the main house with white columns. This was the original main house of the estate, and served as the Blythewood Administrative building. It conatined the doctor's offices and also served as a "Graduate House" for patients about to be released.
When patients first arrived, they were held in a "Lockup House" for observation. This could take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Depending on the diagnosis, patients would be assigned to the Violent House or Middle House.
The Violent House was the farthest from the road. Patients were usually strapped down to guernies when arriving, then delivered to padded cells for safety. Sometimes their hands were restrained. Occassional screams could be heard from the building. Pottery classes were held to help with rehabilitation.
People who improved would move to the Middle House. This was a 2-story building with a finished attic, common rooms, and central dining room. Patients continued their rehabilitation here until they were ready to move to the Graduate House.
Patients saw their psychiatrist for an hour each day five days a week. In general, improving patients were allowed maximum freedom of movement. Activities were geared to give patients intellectual and creative expression. Clubs were formed, a library was accessible, concerts and musicals were performed - some by famous artists.
One of the attending physicians, Dr. Tiebout, was a pioneer in treating alcoholism. On July 30, 1979, the Greenwich Time ran an article that Greenwich was second only to the San Fernando Valley as the Alcoholic Capital of America! Dr. Tiebout believed the only way to treat the disease was to have the patient give up alcohol all together. He was one of the early doctors to help formulate the AA program. Blythewood began to get more and more people admitted for alcohol treatment.
Blythewood had its share of problems over time. There were rumors of experimentation gone bad, and several people committed suicide on the premises. A fire destroyed part of the sanitarium in December of 1939. Several patients were found drowned in a pond on the property.
When Dr. Wiley died on November 8, 1936, Mrs. Wiley took over as head and continued to run the hospital until she died on July 2, 1951. The Putnam Operating Company took over in July 1951, and the company continued to operate using the same philosophy and ideals established by the Wileys. Managers also focused on personnel and employees, making sure they were trained to provide top notch service to patients.
The sanitarium continued to operate until 1965, when the Greenwich Baptist Church bought the property for its home. The current patients were transferred to other facilities throughout Fairfield County.
Brown, S. : A Biography of Mrs. Marty Mann: First Lady of Alcoholics Anonymous; Hazelden Information & Education Services, 2001.
Greenwich Time: Time-Warner Corporation.