Monday, April 12, 2010

Taunton Massachusetts State Hospital

Completed in 1854, the Taunton State Hospital was a psychiatric hospital located Taunton, Massachusetts, built to relieve the pressure of a rising patient population. Prior to that there was only one other State asylum.
The State Lunatic Hospital at Taunton, as it was originally known, began housing patients in 1854.  Listed on Mary (Robillard) St. Jean's death certificate, this is where she spent her final days.

This facility was most impressive.  The vision, when the building and grounds were completed, was to "render it a spot fitted to interest and tranquilize the minds of those who need as well the soothing influences of external nature as the healing remedies of art."  The hospital's architecture is of a unique and rare neo-classical style, designed by the architect Elbridge Boyden.  One of its most beautiful features were its breezeways which were added in the 1890s to connect the end of the wards to the hospitals infirmary buildings. Its distinct cupolas, large dome, cast-iron capitals and window bars, also gave this building its own very unique personality. 
The hospital boasted all of the modern conveniences: central heat, running water, sewer and central ventilation, and also included a chapel, kitchen, bakery, laundry, dining rooms, apartments for staff, washrooms, parlors, open-air verandas and "patient" rooms. Some patient rooms were dormitory style and others private. Private rooms were an innovation and reflected the institution's concern for its inhabitants who would now be called "patients" and not "inmates."

The hospital was abandoned in 1975, and in 1999 the large dome which towered over the hospital's administration collapsed. Then on March 19, 2006, a massive fire broke out in the center of the facility leaving only the decaying wings. Finally, during late May 2009, workers began a complete abatement and demolition on all of the disused buildings on the property.

Photographs of the building before the dome collapsed can be seen in the Library of Congress's American Memory Collections.


Joan said...

Interesting how our views on taking care of the the poor and "disarranged" have changed over the years. There was a time when being an inmate was so much better than being thrust out onto the streets, or left to to manage on their own. Thank you for this post.

Michelle Robillard said...

Good post, thanks for sharing. I have a keen interest in these insane asylums. I did a little research on the North Hampton state hospital a while back. The stories I read were all fascinating yet very frightening. How is your research coming along with Mary Jean? I have seen a few of your queries over at genforum, I wish I could help you. Take care : )

TCasteel said...

It was interesting reading about this hospital and learning the reasons some people were 'admitted'. There was one article I saw somewhere stating a woman was placed in the mental hospital because she stopped doing housework.... uh oh....
I better stop blogging and do something productive around the house. ;-)

Sanjay Maharaj said...

I enjoyed reading this and thank you for sharing