top of page

Grafton State Hospital

1901- 1973

Grafton, Massachusetts


Grafton State Hospital for the “chronic insane” opened in 1901 as an extension of Worcester State Hospital. The state of Massachusetts purchased 700 acres of land for the new farm colony hospital. This hospitals intent was to provide agriculture and therapeutic work for patients that Worcester could not. Because of that reason the campus would be layed and built in the cottage plan to get all the benefits of the rural open area. The campus would be divided into two parts. Females would be housed in the northern part while males would be in the southern. The hospital classified patients by their behavior instead diagnosis. “Violent” “Excited” “Quiet” & “Peaceful”. The colonies were labeled by different types of trees. Pines, Elms, Oaks and Willows. Pines (Female) and Elms (Male) were for violent and excited, while Willows (Female) and Oaks (Male) were for the quiet and peaceful patients. The Pines and Elms buildings were developed with masonry as heavy bricked buildings, while Willows and Oaks were cottages made out of stones and wood. By 1912, Grafton was administratively separated from Worcester and became independent. Over the next decade the hospital would expand to keep up with the ever growing patient population by adding a theater, administration building, and a new colony for females known as Cedar. Pines and Elms had greatly expanded in the 1916 because Worcester State Hospital wanted to get rid of all their "epileptic, noisy, disturbed and violent" patients because they didn’t want to disturb the peace of the city. The Elms colony patients would help build these new buildings since it was said that it "helped control their outburst". Another advance for the hospital was its state of the art hydro-therapy rooms. By 1945, the hospital had reached its highest occupancy of 1,730 patients. With the stress and over crowding at this time the focus to keep the hospital as self-sufficient as possible, the agricultural aspect of the hospital became the main focus while occupational treatments for patients quickly fell to almost none. By the 1970s a change in attitude for the mentally ill across the county was taking place. The attitude was to have smaller group homes for patients instead of large institutions like Grafton. The final decision to close the hospital happened in 1973 after several patients won a lawsuit against Dr. Sevinsky for sexual misconduct. 


After the closure of the hospital, The Willows colony for females was demolished but a redevelop agreement took place in 1978 with the state of Massachusetts and Tufts University also known as Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine to rehabilitate some of the buildings. The Administration building, Theater, and parts of Elms (Violent/Excited Male Colony) would be reused. Durning this time the Job Corps program also started to reuse and redevelop buildings on the northern side of the hospital campus. They would reuse only 1/3 of the Pines building (Violent/Excited Female Colony) while the other 2/3 would remain vacant. As of 2022 the 3 Pines buildings linked by two connectors have been demolished to make way for a 317 apartment complex with restaurants and shops. 


bottom of page