In 1909, the State of Colorado planned 310 acres 2 miles west of Arvada for a mental hospital soon to be named Ridge Home. It was located at approx. 52nd and Kipling. One year later Ridge Home was complete. The final building on the original campus wouldn’t be finished until 1936. The main administration building proudly wore the cornerstone saying “A.D. 1910 State Home and Training School for mental defectives, founded by the State of Colorado through the efforts of Ella Parish Williams of the State Board of Correctives.” Ridge Home got the name from the street that runs on the north side of the main campus, Ridge Road. The first patient had arrived in July of 1912. By 1936 Ridge had a enrollment of 260 out of the capacity for 300 patients. Those who were committed to Ridge were to stay there the rest of their life. Unless the were transferred to Pueblo Insane Asylum. Some got to stay with family members when they awaited their transfer. Among the original buildings was a school, and a farm that patients would work at with supervision. Ridge Home was also made a stop on the Tramway to Golden, and the efforts of Simon Guggenheim established its own separate post office.
According to one nurse who worked here in the 1960’s, the people at Ridge were always drugged, which is not an uncommon practice in this type of facility. She claims that perfectly normal kids were dropped off there, but by living there all their lives, they became social mentally disabled. People seemed to be dropped off at Ridge, and forgotten. It was Arvada’s “dirty little secret.”
In 1989 the Federal government had started to get complaints from local residents and family members on Ridge Home. The government had threatened to charge Ridge with $8 million if the state didn’t improve the conditions soon. According to one nurse. Ridge Home was constantly littered with the bodily waste from the patients using every part of Ridge as a bathroom and the orderlies did not seem to care.
When two Federal agents came to inspect on the conditions, they observed two orderlies using excessive force on a patient. In 1990 they determined that Ridge needed 155 new staffers, and they had to spend at least $1.3. million to get the new staff. The people who ran Ridge said that everything there was safe and was all fine, so they refused to do anything that they were asked to do.
A lawsuit was filed in 1989 and in 1990 they were given 5 days to get things fixed, After the staff at Ridge started complaining that 5 days was a short deadline, it was explained that, legally, they had 1 year and 5 days. Family members of the current “residents” of Ridge Home started worrying that it would soon be gone.
In 1990, Ridge got a 90-day reprieve. The feds found that the conditions at Ridge were getting better. This reprieve ran out on July 8, 1990. Then again they extended the deadline to August 17. But on August 29, 1990 the Feds decided it was enough, they cut off more than $12 million in Medicaid funds to Ridge Home. The state decided it was wrong and appealed. They claimed that they had taken massive steps to clean up.
Against medical protocol, Ridge Home decide to move patients out into communities. Neither the communities or the patients were ready. They were moved into places that are group homes and that is where many reside today. After 1990 and the home “closed”, only severely ill patients were allowed to live at Ridge.
In September of 1991 a fire ran though one of the abandoned Ridge Home buildings. It was the third blaze in the last two months. No one was hurt, but firefighters did drench a black and white cat that they found in the attic of the building. (This building was the one that was three stories high) On the following day, a security guard was arrested on suspicion of setting the building on fire. His name was Michael George King, age 24, and was a two-week guard from Burns International Security Services. Later he admitted to setting the fire in the attic. This was the administration building that once so proudly stood at the main entrance of Ridge.
In 1994 an Aurora man died when an argument over a woman ended in a shooting. Michael Fluellen, 22, was shot once in the face, in the northeast parking lot. He was a psychiatric technician. It happened at 6:10 a.m. as shifts were changing. All because the man, Wilbur Swift, thought that Fluellen was having an affair with his wife. The police were unable to tell if the murder was an accident or not. Numerous Ridge Home employees saw the fight, and many more saw Fluellen’s body, draped with a white sheet, lying outside the northeast entrance.
There were 22 developmentally disabled sex offenders confined in what was left of Ridge Home in April of 1999. This was indeed on the main grounds of the original facility.
The buildings had become a dumping ground and a safety hazard. Throughout the years, many plans had been made for the Ridge Home site. Housing for troubled teens, an amusement park, a rec. center, other houses, commercial use, Red Rocks even talked about taking over the rest of this site as they now use a small portion across the street. The clean up of the asbestos was a major factor in these plans. In 1998, it would have cost $5 million to clean it all.
Around 2006, plans were underway to demolish the site and build a new shopping area along Kipling. The demolishing of the site took quite some time because of the asbestos removal as well as filling in the tunnels that once were underneath the property.
Ridge Home was gone by the end of 2007 and and a mall now stands along what was the back half of the Ridge Home property. A Super Target is at the very back. By 2015, the front half of the site was turned into apartments. The original entry on the road is still there. The main entrance crosses a railroad track and the crossing signals were recently removed.