The Ladd School

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The Ladd School
Established 1907
Construction Began 1908
Closed 1993/1994
Demolished partially
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Cottage Plan
Architecture Style cottage style
Peak Patient Population 4,533
Alternate Names
  • Rhode Island School for the Feeble Minded
  • Exeter School
  • Dr. Joseph H. Ladd Center


Prior to building the Rhode Island School for the Feeble-Minded in 1907, most patients were treated out of state at places with such charming names as the Connecticut School for Imbeciles and the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded. The Ladd School started as a farm colony, based on programs in other states were patients were housed in small cottage settings, as opposed to large institutions that came later, and worked in a rural setting doing small chores, farming, and later making of clothes and household items. In 1909 they erected a girls dormitory, as the boys was full and a waiting list was established.

In 1917 the name was changed to the Exeter School, dropping the “feeble-minded”, as the term began to grow objectionable. After a decade of mis-management, low funding, and high over-crowded enrollment, in 1928, the Exeter School was a warehouse for society's refuse. Amidst a steady and growing controversy over his policies, Dr Joseph Ladd retired on June 1, 1956. It was officially closed as an institution of the state in 1994. During the early seventies, the Ladd School Parents Association, an advocacy group for the developmentally disabled, brought suit against the State for running such poor institutions. In 1986, law-makers tried to get it closed because of pending legal issues (child abuse cases), and Rhode Island wanted to abolish institutions from it's mental health programs.

The last patient of the Ladd School was moved to permanent offsite, community based housing in March of 1994.

Superintendents of the facility include: Dr. Joseph H. Ladd 1907-1956 Dr. John G Smith 1956-1978 Mr. George W. Gunther 1979-1993

The majority of the buildings on the property were demolished in August of 2013. The only structure remaining is the iconic yellow rounded Foggarty hospital.


Main Image Gallery: Ladd School


The following is a short five minute documentary on The Ladd School.