Fountain House traces its roots to the late 1940s at Rockland State Hospital in Orangeburg, New York. Six patients formed a group that met in a hospital “club room” where they shared their stories, read, painted and participated in social functions. Soon after leaving Rockland, they joined together to re-create the respectful and supportive group they had formed in the hospital, meeting on the steps of the New York Public Library. All believed they could offer each other support in life’s challenges and sustain their social community. They hoped that their successful recovery would gradually change society’s perception of people living with mental illness, leading to broader understanding and a reduction in stigma.
The group they formed, “We Are Not Alone,” speaks to what remains the central problem for people living with serious mental illness today- social isolation. In 1948, with help from their supporters, they bought a building in New York City. The fountain that adorned the “Clubhouse” garden at West 47th street represented both hope and rejuvenation and inspired the name “Fountain House.”