Tewksbury State Hospital (Historic Asylums)

Tewksbury State Hospital

aka Massachusetts State Infirmary, Tewksbury Hospital

Tewksbury, Massachusetts

Established 1852, still standing.

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"The State Almshouse was located in Tewksbury, May 1, 1854, upon a farm of two hundred and fifty acres. Mr. Isaac H. Meserve was the first superintendent. The Honorable Thomas J. Marsh succeeded him in 1858, and he held the office for over twenty-five years.Mr. Marsh, in 1883, was followed by Dr. C. Irving Fisher, the present superintendent. The number of inmates varies from about 800 in summer to 1200 winter." - from Tewksbury - a Short History by Edward W.Pride, 1888

History of the Hospital

From the Public Health Museum web site, with permission:

The hospital was established in 1852 as one of three state almshouses needed to help care for the unprecedented influx of immigrants into Massachusetts at that time. The almshouses were the Commonwealth's first venture into caring for the poor, a duty which had previously been carried out by the cities and towns. Opened on May 1, 1854 with a capacity for 500, the almshouse population grew to 668 by the end of the first week, and to over 800 by May 20th. By December 2, 1854, 2,193 "paupers" had been admitted. Nearly 90% of these listed European countries as their birthplace. The almshouse reported having 14 employees at that time, and was spending 94.5 cents per week per resident.

The most famous patient in the almshouse during the 19th century was Anne Sullivan, who later became the tutor and companion of Helen Keller. Anne Sullivan spent four years at the almshouse (1876-1880) before being transferred to thePerkins School for the Blind, now located in Watertown, Massachusetts. At age 20 she left the school to go to Helen Keller's home in Alabama. One of the buildings on today's Tewksbury Hospital Campus is named for Ms. Sullivan.

Reflecting its changing mission, the Tewksbury Almshouse became Tewksbury State Hospital in 1900, the Massachusetts State Infirmary in 1909, and Tewksbury State Hospital and Infirmary in 1938. Over the years, facilities were added for treating tuberculosis and other contagious diseases such as smallpox, venereal diseases and typhoid fever. Meanwhile it continued to serve as a last resort for many patients in need of shelter and supervised care, especially during the late 1920's and 1930's.

Administration Building

The Old Administration building of Tewksbury State Hospital was erected in 1894. This Queen Anne-style building stands at the head of the original main entrance drive on East Street, marked by a circa 1900 granite and wrought iron gate. Designed by Boston architect John A. Fox, the building was part of a major construction effort in the 1890's to upgrade the old almshouse by replacing the wood frame buildings with more durable and fireproof masonry structures. The building is a three and a half story, red brick building with a steeply pitched slate roof defined by bridge-end chimneys, roof dormers, and a copper-clad clock tower rising from its center. The original core was enlarged with lateral wings around 1920, and a one-story rear addition around 1930.

Prior to the opening of the Public Health Museum on September 30,1994, the 100th anniversary year of the building, a concerted effort was made to restore the interior space of the Old Administration Building to its early 1900's appearance. In January of 1994 this building and the Tewksbury Hospital campus were placed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Public Health Museum

The old administration building currently houses the Public Health Museum. Most of the information on this page was obtained from the Public Health MuseumW eb Site, which holds a copyright on the photographs. You can find a lot more photos and information on the web site.

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