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Danvers State Hospital, Massachusetts

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Danvers_State_Hospital,_Danvers,_Massachusetts,_Kirkbride_Complex,_circa_1893A psychiatric hospital built in 1874 and opened in 1878, Danvers State Hospital was located on an isolated, multi-acre site in a remote part of Massachusetts. Danvers is alleged to be the birthplace of the pre-frontal lobotomy.

Danvers was built around the Kirkbride Plan, a series of state mental hospitals constructed with the idea that psychiatric patients should be housed in more humane accommodations. The typical Kirkbride floor plan was meant to promote privacy and comfort for patients, and the buildings were designed to have a curative effect. These institutions were typically large, Victorian style buildings on large, remote properties. Most of the buildings at Danvers State Hospital were joined by an underground labyrinth of tunnels (generally due to the winter conditions in the area).

The original hospital design accommodated 500 patients, although an additional 100 could live in the facility’s attic.  By the late 1930s and 1940s, Danvers housed over 2,000. Danvers’ overcrowding sparked numerous reports that it employed many inhumane practices, such as shock therapies, lobotomies, controversial drugs, and straightjackets, simply to control the large number of patients. By the 1960s when the practice of treating mental health patients started to change, the number of patients at Danvers started to decline.

In June 1992, Danvers closed.  For the next 15 years the property was left to rot until it was sold and scheduled for demolition. Notwithstanding attempts to keep the property in tact as a historical site, demolition took place in January 2006 to make room for 497 apartments on the 77-acre property (scheduled to be open for residents in the Fall 2007). On April 7, 2007, a fire of mysterious origin burned and destroyed four of the apartment complex buildings and four of the construction company’s temporary facilities.

Today, apartments and condominiums occupy most of the land, and Beverly Hospital in Beverly, Massachusetts has a satellite Medical and Day Surgery Center nearby. In September 2010 plans were filed to build a 75,000-square-foot, two-story nursing home on 9 acres of the original site.

Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org

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Posted: September 15, 2014

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Category: All, Lost Hospitals, Massachusetts

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