The classic style, therapeutic art and calming colours of Northampton State Hospital in Massachusetts, are now lost. Also missing, is the work-therapy farm and the imprisoning ward rooms, which once stood testament to the suffering and confinement of the mentally ill who resided in the asylum. The hospital was built in 1856 and demolished 150 years later, in 2006, to make way for a new housing complex called Village Hill.
Originally the State Lunatic Asylum at Northampton, this notoriously overcrowded asylum was renamed Northampton Insane Hospital in the 1900s before settling on the more ambiguous title, Northampton State Hospital. Over time, there were also several changes in the use of the original features of the hospital. For instance, tunnels, which were allegedly built for quiet passage underneath the buildings during stormy weather, later became storage space for clinical furniture and patient possessions.
The original building was only intended for 200 patients, but extra wards were added over the decades and, in the 1920s, a new Memorial Complex was constructed and subsequently extended. By the 1950s, the patient population was over 2,300. This growth quickly reversed when the hospital was forced to begin a process of closure, after the 1978 Brewster Consent Decree demanded that care for the mentally ill be moved out of this restrictive, institutional setting. The asylum was gradually abandoned in the 1980s and ’90s.
Although the hospital has gone, some of the new Village Hill buildings have been constructed in a sympathetic style and around 500 green acres of surrounding estate land has been protected from development.
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