Taunton State Hospital

1854- Present

Taunton, Massachusetts

History

Opened on April 7, 1854, The Taunton Lunatic Hospital was the second state hospital, but first Kirkbride hospital for the insane in Massachusetts. Built on the new principles of Thomas Kirkbride’s Linear Plan and with the influence of Dorothea Dix vision for the mentally ill. Designed by architect Elbridge Boyden in a Renaissance Revival featuring an iconic center dome that raised 70ft from the center with panoramic views of Bristol County. Dr. George C.S. Choate became the first superintendent of the new hospital. The original Kirkbride building was built as an “E” with the Male wards to the West and female to the East and could accommodate 250 patients. In its first year it received 330 patients from the comfortable number it was designed for. This became such an issue that the hospital began to expend in 1874 and again in 1892 with the infirmary wards Brown (Male) and Howland (Female) The new infirmaries would be connected with its famous curved breezeways on each side. Also in that year the original staircase was demolished and repurposed in the rotunda as a spiral staircase climbing up to the third floor. The fake dome ceiling on top was removed and opened for natural light to make the Front Centre building more cheery. More changes started to take place around the campus. A male (Murray 1902) and female Nurse’s home was built (Learoyd 1902.) Another change was the hospitals name to the Taunton State Hospital in 1909. A nursing program was also started by Linda Richards who was head of the hospitals nursing program which paved the way for modern day psych nurses.

 

With all these changed and additions the hospital still couldn’t keep up with the demands of patients. In the 1930s the campus started to get away from the Kirkbride hospital and move West of the campus adding a new surgical building, (Besse 1935) Female infirmary, (Cain 1935) nurses home, (Gifford 1937) superintendents house (Emory House 1934) and a Married Couples home (Dorn 1927). In 1951, Taunton State Hospital hit its heights patient count at 2,356. Another major addition was the new admissions building (Chambers 1956) and new Male infirmary (Goss 1963) were added. This would help take off the growing patient count with an extra 200 plus beds.

 

In August 1972 the Massachusetts department of public safety did a tour of the hundred year old Kirkbride and determined that the hospitals wings were unsafe for live in patients and they needed to be moved out in 5 days or they would shut the hospital down. This caused tremendous amount of stress and pressure on hospital patients and staff in a short amount of time. They would be moved to Murray, Cain, Goss, and Besse. After the closure of the wings the Front Center part of the hospital would still be in use for activities, treatment and meals for only the physically fit patients. Also around this time was a trend that was becoming more and more popular in America called deinstitutionalization. This would take a lot of pressure off the hospital but also would doom the famous Kirkbride. Around the late 1980s the whole Kirkbride hospital would be abandoned and left to decay. In 1999 the famous cupola started to lean to the left and in fear of it collapsing they hired a company to self collapse it into the iconic rotunda. Another major blow to this iconic hospital was a large fire that happened on March 19, 2006 that destroyed the Front Center of the Kirkbride.

 

The Kirkbride hospital stood for 156 years before it was razed in 2010 due to demolition by neglect. Although the original Kirkbirde Hospital is now a memory, Taunton State Hospital is still an active mental health facility treating and helping patients with the same moral principles as it did when it first opened.

Photography