Our Lady of the Oaks, Lexington, Kentucky

Posted by Kelly McDaniels

September 18, 2020

SCN Archivist Kathy Hertel-Baker shares the following on Our Lady of the Oaks Psychiatric Hospital:

In 1945, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth purchased High Oaks Sanitarium in Lexington, Kentucky from Dr. George S. Sprague. High Oaks had served for years as a psychiatric hospital for females with “nervous illnesses” and addictions. Sister Margaret Catharine Dowd, administrator of St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington, read in an April 1945 newspaper that High Oaks Sanitarium was for sale and that purchase of the property would have to be completed within the month.  

Sister Margaret Catharine realized the advantage for patients and the potential value of the High Oaks facility to St. Joseph Hospital. She promptly telephoned Mother Ann Sebastian who, after consultation with her Council, agreed to purchase High Oaks for $90,000. The sale took place on April 13, 1945. The psychiatric hospital, renamed Our Lady of the Oaks by Mother Ann Sebastian, reopened on May 1, 1945.  

The living room at Our Lady of the Oaks

Our Lady of the Oaks incorporated fourteen acres with two brick buildings containing thirty-six patient rooms, three living rooms, a dining room, and a kitchen. The patient rooms were attractively furnished, well-equipped, and ready for occupancy. Thirty-one patients could be immediately accommodated in private rooms.  

Our Lady of the Oaks Hospital became an affiliate nurses’ training school and received students from Kentucky hospitals: namely St. Joseph, Lexington; St. Elizabeth, Covington; Sts. Mary and Elizabeth and St. Joseph’s Infirmary, Louisville. Student nurses were required to have several months of psychiatric training. At Our Lady of the Oaks student nurses gained knowledge of psychiatric medications and treatments.  

Nurses training at Our Lady of the Oaks

Staff at Our Lady of the Oaks offered occupational therapy for patients. This therapy included knitting, crocheting, music, and art. Paintings, created by patients in art therapy, decorated the walls of the hospital.  

For fourteen years Our Lady of the Oaks, through professionals in the field of psychiatry, provided dedicated service to persons seeking relief from mental disordersIn 1948, 586 patients were treated. Psychiatric services continued at Our Lady of the Oaks until 1959, when the psychiatric hospital was incorporated into St. Joseph Hospital, Lexington. This move provided an opportunity for psychiatric patients to receive care in the same facility for both mental and physical illnesses.  

In 1959 Our Lady of the Oaks Psychiatric Hospital became the convent for the Sisters in ministry at St. Joseph Hospital. The convent was named Fatima Hall. In October 1969, Fatima Hall was demolished to allow for hospital expansion. 

Our Lady of the Oaks Psychiatric Hospital


  1. Maria Brocato

    Thank you, Kathy, for another good historical piece. I am always glad to renew my knowledge about our missions.

  2. Leena

    Thank you Kelly for sharing this piece of history. Our pioneers have really taken every bit opportunity to serve the people and reach out. Our Lady of the Oaks,might have been the first one to serve people seeking relief from mental disorders I guess. 586 patients is really a big no at that time I think .

  3. Louise Smith

    Thanks Kelly for doing the research and sharing some great moments in SCN earlier history. If you had not shared it I would not of known about Our Lady of the Oaks.


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