RSH invites community to check out its historical digs

by Cristin Parker

The Rusk State Hospital renovation project has commenced, and as dirt work begins project officials want residents to know it’s not going to simply be ‘out with the old, in with the new.’

HHS State Hospital System Planning Coordinator Amanda Flores this week said, “During the open house and town hall (held Nov. 7), our archeological/historical consultants, SWCA, mentioned that they would be back on the Rusk State Hospital campus doing some additional work. They noted that this could potentially be an opportunity for members of the public to come and watch them work.”
SWCA will be on campus now through Thursday, Dec. 12 and again Monday, Dec. 16 to Friday, Dec. 20, doing State Antiquities Landmark eligibility testing excavation.

“Anyone with an interest in observing SWCA’s work, can contact Francela Williams,, and let her know when you would like to come to campus to observe so that she can help coordinate with the folks at the facility,” Flores said.

Officials broke ground on Texas Health and Human Services (HHS)’s $200 million construction project at Rusk State Hospital in November.

The project includes building a new 225,000-square-foot patient complex that will feature a 100-bed non-maximum security unit; 100-bed maximum security unit; and a new administrative building.

“These 130-year-old buildings cannot be renovated or repaired to meet the needs of the people we serve today, RSH Superintendent Michelle Foster said in an earlier interview. “But we’re working with the community to preserve the stories and the legacy of those who have been here before.

“The connection between Rusk State Hospital and our East Texas community did begin with this site, these buildings. But, Rusk State Hospital isn’t the buildings. It’s the people. Our grandparents and parents stood with us as we grew and evolved. We know you will stand with us, and the people we serve, today as we reinvent our facilities and shape the future of mental health care.”

RSH Assistant Superintendent Megan Lankford reported project officials continue to work with the architects and the Texas Historical Commission and the Heritage Center of Cherokee County to make sure the hospital’s is preserved and commemorated as they make way for the new buildings.

“We are truly blessed to be a part of this community and we know there’s a lot of history in all the buildings on this campus,” she said. “The officials designing the new buildings have toured these buildings and we feel like they understand and appreciate the importance of keeping that history alive for future generations.”