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Keeley Institute: Dwight, Illinois Part 3 January 17, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, History, Houses, National Register of Historic Places.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Dwight has an interesting history, if you take the time to do the research about it. But don’t worry, you don’t have to, I did it for you (and luckily compiled most of it on Wikipedia which will be linked to gratuitously throughout this posts.

Dwight has been called America’s first therapeutic community, because of Dr. Leslie Keeley and John R. Oughton and their famed Keeley Institute. The Keeley Cure (wiki by me, thoroughly researched like all I do, yet not completely finished) was globally famous as a “scientific” treatment for alcoholism, groundbreaking at the time, and more than a bit odd in hindsight. The Keeley Cure involved “bichloride of gold”, and the jury is still out on what, exactly, that was. There are a few buildings associated with the Keeley Institute still extant in Dwight, among them, the John R. Oughton House (wiki by me), which served as housing for Keeley Institute patients.

The Oughton Estate’s restored windmill is owned by the Village of Dwight.

The Oughton House is a large estate which serves as a strange smelling restaurant today; it includes the elaborately restored windmill seen above. Across the street from the Oughton Estate is another Keeley affiiated building, seen below. The John R. Oughton House, including the windmill, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places back in 1980.

The Keeley Building

The Keeley Institute had franchises all over the United States and became rather famous, and successful, for a time. Though the institute didn’t close until 1965 its popularity ended in the early 20th century. The Keeley Cure was widely known, becoming ubiquitous as part of the lexicon; people would often refer jokingly to people, especially the rich and famous, who were “taking the Keeley Cure” or had “gone to Dwight.” A similar phenomenon can be observed with famous modern-day treatment facilities such as the Betty Ford Clinic.

Online Resources
*John R Oughton House: NRHP Nomination Form/Illinois Historic Sites Survey Inventory Form
*John R. Oughton House: Free use image gallery (by me)
*John R. Oughton House: IHPA Property Information Report – Has older photos at bottom, if you right click and hit ‘view image’ you can see the full resolution images.
*1939 Time magazine article on Keeley Cure

Look for more on Dwight in the future, tomorrow we move down Route 66 to Odell, Illinois.


1. Sue - February 3, 2008

Thanks! I just read your wikimasterpiece and appreciated it. I’m researching Keeley because in doing genealogy, I found a branch of the family went from PA to Princeton IL and then to Dwight, and one of our clan seems to have been a past head of Keeley as secy and biz mgr in 1902. If you have any sources on same, I’m all ears, but thank you in any case!

2. dr. gonzo - February 3, 2008

I will see what I can dig up. The day I went the Dwight Library (which is on the Oughton Estate property — former carriage house actually) was closed. I will likely return once warmer weather hits so when I do I’ll see what I find there. I don’t add much to the Wiki these days but for something like this you could expect to find anything I find out in that Wikipedia article. Thanks for reading.

3. Revierflaneur » Blog Archiv » Sonntag, 17. August 2008: AtD II.8 - August 17, 2008

[…] Arzt Leslie E. Keeley (1834[?]-1900) gründete 1879 in Dwight (Illinois), 110 Kilometer südwestlich von Chicago, ein Sanatorium für Suchtkranke. Im Laufe eines […]

4. Pat Davis - August 23, 2008

One of my ancestors had a Keeley Institute franchise in Caldwell, Noble Co. OH. Dr. Robert C. Downey, who was also a surgeon during the Civil War. I’d like to know if any institute records exist. . . would like to find refs to Dr. Downey. Thank you.

5. Deb O - October 11, 2008

To Pat, Hi, my family owned and ran the Keeley in Dwight. After it closed in the 60’s my father sent everything he had to the Illinois Historical Preservation Agency. I’m not sure how much info was in his files about the various franchises. It’s worth a shot.

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