In 1841 Dorothea Dix, born in Maine in 1802, began what would be an international campaign to improve conditions for the mentally ill. She was stirred to action when she personally observed the mentally ill enduring inhuman conditions in a Cambridge, Mass jail. She traveled from state to state, and even country to country, working to improve conditions for their attention and treatment.
The “Asylum” bill (as it was called) passed the North Carolina House and Senate in December 1848 with the help of Representative James Dobbin from Cumberland County. He fought for the bill after being personally moved by Dix’s attention and compassion to his dying wife. Dix refused to have the hospital named for her, but agreed to have the site named “Dix Hill” after her grandfather, Doctor Elijah Dix.
In 1918, Anderson Hall was built to accommodate nursing school offices, classrooms and living quarters for students. In 1959, the hospital name was changed to Dorothea Dix Hospital, to help remove the stigma of earlier designations.
In 2003, the North Carolina legislature passed a bill that relocated the hospital to Butner, NC leaving approximately 306 acres of land unused.
Several groups – the Friends of Dorthea Dix, Dix306, the Dix Visonaries – began to educate and lobby for the designation of the land as a Destination Park.