Worcester State Hospital

By the early eighteen-seventies, there was a general consensus that the old Worcester asylum building, opened in 1833, had become inadequate for the state's needs. Merrick Bemis, the superintendent at the time, called for the construction of a new asylum complex based on a group of smaller, decentralized buildings. Although initially meeting with approval, his proposal was ultimately rejected and the more mainstream Kirkbride model was agreed upon. This massive Kirkbride building was designed by the architect George Dutton Rand and completed in 1877 at the cost of well over a million dollars.

Today the Worcester State Hospital Kirkbride is mostly gone. Severely damaged by fire in 1991, large sections of the building were torn down and only a few fragments remained standing. Even with Route 9, a large office park, and the current hospital site nearby, the abandoned building was a peaceful place. It must have been even more peaceful before the city grew up and around it. In spite of this peacefulness, the Kirkbride was somewhat ominous and foreboding. The building looked more like some weird castle or fortress than a hospital. It's odd to think that the parties involved felt this building would help create a calming or stabilizing influence.

In his book The State and the Mentally Ill, Gerald Grob argues that the building actually resembles a prison and that this is not by chance. State asylums were becoming more custodial in nature when this Kirkbride was constructed. The belief that mental illness was highly curable was being seriously questioned and asylums were being built with a stronger focus on confinement rather than treatment.

In 2008, most of the remains of the Kirkbride were razed to make room for a new state psychitric hospital complex. The clocktower still remains, as well as the rotunda known as Hooper Hall. There are no plans to tear those last remnants of the Kirkbride down, but there are also no plans to renovate them and their future is uncertain.

Other names for this hospital:

  • Worcester State Lunatic Asylum
  • Bloomingdale Insane Asylum
  • Worcester Insane Hospital

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Forum Topics

Confirmed: Admin./Clocktower Being Dismantled
Thanks (I guess) to Robert Duffy for the update and photo ...
Any Update On The Admin./clocktower
Anyone know the demolition status at Worcester Is is gone Any...
DEADLINE 1/10/12!
The below has been reposted with permission:The deadline for sending in your comments and concerns about the demolition is tomorrow, Jan 10th.Send your emails to Deirdre Buckley,...

Blog Posts

Worcester State Hospital Fire DVD
A DVD of the Worcester State Hospital fire is now available for purchase. You can learn more about it and buy it at D.M. Wenc's photography website. The DVD has a running time of...
What Will the Worcester Clocktower Look Like?
An article on the Boston Globe website includes an artist's rendering of the Worcester State Hospital clock tower replica: Clock Tower: Time Isn't Up in Worcester. Even though...
Worcester Clocktower Update
Looks like Massachusetts is planning to proceed with demolition of the entire Worcester State Hospital admin (including the clock tower), and construction of a replica clock...