To some, it might seem a little strange that I would enjoy spending a perfectly good, warmer-than-expected afternoon wandering around the overgrown grounds of what was formerly a psychiatric institution- but Medfield State Hospital is surprisingly more peaceful than it is frightening or ominous.
Built in 1892, Medfield State Hospital was a self-sufficient asylum for up to 2,000+ chronic mentally ill patients and was known for it’s innovative “Cottage Plan”, a college-inspired layout which differed greatly from the standard Kirkbride Plan that many hospitals and asylums were modeled after during that era (and one of my favorite architecture types, really. Mainly because Kirkbride buildings are the more frightening and ominous looking ones!)
The hospital stayed open for over a century before the last of its buildings were shuttered in 2003. Since then, the grounds remain open to the public from dawn through dusk each day- monitored regularly by security and local police patrols as the interiors of the buildings are off-limits due to hazardous air conditions and potentially compromised flooring/roofing. The exteriors of the buildings are in rather good shape, however- and guests can roam the grounds, ride bikes, let their dogs run and play, etc.
Movies have also been filmed around the remains of the hospital, including “Shutter Island” and the “The New Mutants” from the X-Men series. A careful eye will notice some of the buildings in the background.
This past weekend, I decided to take a trip up to the hospital for the first time in a couple years to enjoy some peace and quiet and snap some photos of the ever-changing surroundings as they continue to be reclaimed by the elements and nature growing up and around them.
It was surprisingly busy up there- and I ended up playing with about a dozen dogs that were exploring while their owners walked around nearby. I didn’t mind at all.
My only complaint about the trip- and it’s a minor thing- is that I am vehemently against graffiti on a historical landmark (Medfield State Hospital was added to the register in 1994)– however many of the buildings had hand-painted haikus written on them by The Poetry Project. While I am all for artistic expression and have no doubt that the poems were approved by the town of Medfield- many took up entire sides of the buildings- which sort of took away from the overall beautiful and haunting aesthetic the grounds are known for.
Like I said, it was a minor thing- but surprising nonetheless when I first began spotting them as I made my way around.
If you’re looking for a unique, sprawling and gorgeous backdrop for photographs or a long walk- Medfield State Hospital is a wonderful place to try. Don’t let it’s unusual, and maybe morbid history keep you away. It’s a fascinating place.