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 admin section remained standing until 2013, but was torn down and replaced with a replica of only the clock tower. Now all that remains of the Kirkbride is the rotunda known as Hooper Hall.

Other names for this hospital:

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


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