I knew that this Fall I wanted to do a more in-depth series about some of my favorite historic, probably-way-haunted locations, attractions and oddities in and around New England (and beyond!) I had attempted to do something similar last October, writing about a local unsolved crime from 1855 that took place not far from where I currently live- but given that the month wasn’t nearly long enough and I had been doing some extensive traveling around Halloween- I couldn’t share many more locations by the time November and Thanksgiving were rolling back around!
So I decided to get started a little early this year- and I wanted to kick off these posts with a location that is actually near and dear to me. Not only because it’s in my hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts- but because it was the very first abandoned location I ever explored at length (and thus a passion for urban exploration and photography was born) but also because I later learned my Great Aunt had died there as a result of tuberculosis.
Worcester State Hospital, a former asylum- was first opened in 1877 and was meant to serve as an ahead-of-it’s-time facility to treat those deemed “mentally unwell” by societal standards of the time. A sprawling Kirkbride construction (one of my favorite types of architecture!)– the hospital was the subject of a LIFE Magazine profile and was toured by Sigmund Freud during his only trip to the United States in 1909.
However, like many asylums of it’s time- it didn’t take long for Worcester State Hospital to become overcrowded, understaffed and under-funded as some of it’s more barbaric methods of treating patients became the subject of public and political scrutiny. As a result, disease and abuse were fairly common- and the hospital eventually closed it’s doors in the 1980s after being added to the National Register of Historic Places. Since then, it sat abandoned for many years- occasionally damaged by the elements and by arsonists.
I first discovered the hospital for myself while out driving around with friends in my late teens. A wrong turn led us to a bumpy, pothole-filled road that wrapped around to the main entrance (the “clocktower”) and what was left of the men’s ward. I was immediately fascinated by how something so huge and stunning in it’s design could have just been abandoned and not repurposed into something else for public education and enjoyment- although I didn’t have much time to ponder it before a police officer pulled up to meet us in the roadway. It turns out the area was heavily patrolled 24/7 and they didn’t take kindly to trespassers…
… It didn’t stop me from going back many times after that, though! I learned where to leave my car and how to get there on foot. Nothing stands between me and interesting, somewhat morbid history!
In recent years, the hospital actually has been repurposed- and after being demolished with the exception of the bell tower (which was renovated and is now a monument to the hospital’s legacy and advances in psychiatry) and the women’s ward Hooper Turret- which allowed for constant supervision of suicidal patients and which is still eerily abandoned and boarded up- the site of Worcester State Hospital is now a recovery center for in-patient mental health services for adolescents and adults.
I recently went up to check it out for the first time in forever and snap some photos. Some are in color, give the stone work is still breathtaking- and some are in black & white to capture what I felt was the very much somber mood the location still has surrounding it.
You can click on the images to make them bigger!
And for further reading:
- Worcester Historical Society – Worcester State Hospital
- Opacity (this link features fantastic photos of the hospital pre-demolition and from it’s days as a still-functioning facility!)
I’m excited to write about the other places I have lined up for this series! I love doing the research and traveling to each destination so, so much.