Celebrating the History that is Rockhaven

From left State Senator Anthony Portantino, Joanna Linkchorst and Ardy Kassakhian.
Photos by Mary O”KEEFE


Friends of Rockhaven celebrated the 100th anniversary of the facility with a dance kickoff event on Saturday at the Verdugo Hills American Legion Post 288 lodge.

The organization honored Rockhaven Sanitarium and its founder Agnes Richards. The sanitarium was dedicated to women’s mental health. Rockhaven opened its doors in 1923 and officially closed in 2006.

While it was operated by Richards, and later her daughter, the sanitarium was a safe place for women to live. Often women would be abused in mental facilities and could be committed to one due to issues like menopause or if their husband just didn’t like his wife’s attitude.

Friends of Rockhaven, founded by Joanna Linkchorst, has been Rockhaven’s champion and protector from the time the City of Glendale purchased the location to plans to create a park and museum for women to a period when development appeared to be more powerful than the memory of a woman’s historical business.

State Senator Anthony Portantino was able to get his budget request to preserve Rockhaven approved in June 2021. He was able to secure a one-time appropriation of $8 million from the 2021-22 State Budget General Fund for the creation of the Rockhaven Mental Health History Museum.

Through the efforts of Friends of Rockhaven, the facility has been honored by the California Register of Historic Resources and the National Register of Historic Places.

Glendale City Mayor Ardy Kassakhian and Portantino both attended Saturday’s dance at the American Legion. Portantino presented a certificate of appreciation to Linkchorst that in part read: “Standing as an important landmark to a feminist institution run by and for women, Rockhaven Sanitarium provides a window into a not-so-distant past when the only options for mentally ill women were asylum housing in a distinctly prison-like atmosphere.”

He praised Linkchorst as an activist for founding and working to save Rockhaven and praised Friends of Rockhaven and the community for continuing to remind people how important it is to honor women who have made a difference.