The 19th century saw the rise of the "great institution." Massive structures were built for work (mills and factories), education (colleges) and the treatment or containment of those who were, or were thought to be mentally ill. By the 20th century nearly five percent of the population of Massachusetts, as one example was housed in a state run mental health institution. While some desperately needed care some ended up in those institutions because of family and or social/economic disadvantage. Some received genuine care, some were warehoused.
Medfield State Hospital, located in the town of Medfield, Massachusetts was founded in 1892 and at its height could hold 2200 patients. Medfield was considered one of the best of the state hospitals. It was also a large, self-sufficient working farm. The cemetery there was also created to inter patients who died in the great pandemic of 1918. The Hospital closed in 1988. Over the years, most psychiatric care moved to the community and away from the institutions. The state hospitals have largely either been fenced in, demolished or repurposed. Medfield State was actually converted into a park by the state and the town. It's possible to go there, walk around, walk your dog, and think.
All images copyright 2020 and 2021 by James Hunt.
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