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The Taunton State Hospital in Massachusetts – A unique neo-classical hospital abandoned since 1975

David Goran

Taunton State Hospital in Taunton, Massachusetts was founded as the State Lunatic Hospital at Taunton and opened in the spring of 1854. It was the second asylum in the state of Massachusetts, built to ease congestion at the hospital in Worcester.

Taunton State Hospital was once a lovely example of the massive Kirkbride asylums. Photo of the Administration Building, 1987. Source

Taunton State Hospital was once a lovely example of the massive Kirkbride asylums. Photo of the Administration Building, 1987. Source

The large sprawling campus located on a hill offered fresh air and sunlight, following Kirkbride’s concept for treating mental health patients. The complex was expanded in the early 1870s and again between 1887 and 1906. From the 1930s, juvenile facilities, crisis centers, sick wards, and group homes were added.

The building boasted all of the modern conveniences central heat, running water, sewer and central ventilation. Source

The building boasted all of the modern conveniences central heat, running water, sewer, and central ventilation. Source

The complex was expanded at various times to include over forty buildings and structures. It was constructed in the Georgian style on a monumental scale and is, to this day, an example of classical revival institutional architecture. The main part of the hospital (known as “the Kirkbride Building”) was designed by architect Elbridge Boyden, and several more wings were added over the years. The Kirkbride Building closed in 1975, and the buildings fell into disrepair.

The patient population quickly grew to 250 in the first eight weeks, and by 1873 the number had doubled. Source

The patient population quickly grew to 250 in the first eight weeks, and by 1873 the number had doubled. Source

 

Most of Taunton was shut down in 1975 and left to the elements. Source

Most of Taunton was shut down in 1975 and left to the elements. Source

In 1999, the main dome of the administration building collapsed and in 2006, a large part of the historic complex was destroyed by fire. A massive fire broke out in the center of the building, which included the administration and theater. Sections damaged by fire were then leveled, leaving only the decaying wings of the Kirkbride Building. In 2009, the remaining parts were demolished but many of the newer buildings on the campus remain.

Many architectural elements from the Kirkbride were salvaged and sold off, including timber, granite, iron gates, vintage fixtures and slate roofing tiles.

The state announced the full closure of the 169-bed institution in 2012. Source

The state announced the full closure of the 169-bed institution in 2012. Source

One of the hospital’s most famous patients was Jane Toppan, a serial killer who confessed to having murdered at least 31 people by poisoning in the last decade of the 1800s, while working as a nurse at Cambridge Hospital. According to some of the stories, the people who ran Taunton State Hospital may have actually been even more terrifying than many of the criminally insane patients it housed.