Fountain House: The First Clubhouse

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.”   It was unique in the world of mental health in many important ways. Unlike other programs for men and women with mental illness, Fountain House was founded on the premise that Clubhouse “members” could work productively and have socially satisfying lives in spite of their mental illness.

For nearly thirty years, Fountain House was unique in its way of working, distinguishing itself from other mental health programs by its insistence that members and staff work together, side-by-side, as peers and partners, in every function of the Clubhouse operation. In contrast, the mental health establishment continued to base mental health programs on the medical model, which casts people into the role of patient and makes it difficult for them to view themselves as whole human beings who are more than simply “mentally ill.”

In its early days, Fountain House was considered to operate on the basis of the naïve, if not radical notion that people with mental illness could benefit from a program based on rehabilitation, community and mutually reciprocal relationships with staff.



Gathering Place began as a Partial Day Program in the late 1980's and early 1990's.  As more knowledge about the Clubhouse Model was gained Gathering Place chose to become a Clubhouse on October 1, 1994.  The Clubhouse began in a converted warehouse in Livonia, Michigan.  As membership continued to grow our space was outgrown and the Clubhouse moved to a larger space in Redford in 2007.  Gathering Place is under the Auspice Agency of Lincoln Behavioral Services and under contract with the Detroit Wayne County Mental Health Authority.  Gathering Place became Clubhouse International Accredited in May 2012.