Danvers State Hospital

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Danvers State Hospital
Danvers State Hospital
Construction Began 1874
Opened 1878
Closed June 24, 1992
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Kirkbride Plan
Architect(s) Nathaniel J. Bradlee
Location Hawthorne Hill / Danvers, Massachusetts
Architecture Style Classical Revival
Peak Patient Population 2,400 est.
Alternate Names
  • Danvers State Insane Asylum,
  • Danvers State Asylum,
  • Danvers State Lunatic Asylum

The Danvers State Hospital was a massive state run psychiactric instiution in Danvers, Massachussets. It had a dark and grousome history of sterilizations, lobotomies, abuse, and illegal therapies in which many patients died. A signifigant example of this is the graveyard located behind the main building. It was demolished in 2007.


Constructed at a cost of $1.5 million, with the estimated yearly per capita cost of patients being $3,000 the hospital originally consisted of two main center buildings, housing the administration, with four radiating wings. The outer wings (A and J) housed the dangerous patients. The administration building measured 90 by 60 feet, with a tower 130 feet tall. Connected in the rear was a building 180 by 60 feet, in which the kitchens, laundries, chapel, and dormitories for the attendants. In the rear is the boiler house of 70 feet square, with boilers of 450 horsepower, used for heating and ventilation. Water was pumped from Middleton Pond. On each side of the administration are the wings, the east is for females and the west is for males, connected by small square towers, with the exception of the last ones on each side, which are joined by octagonal towers. The former measured 10 feet square, and were used to separate the buildings. The original plan was designed to house 500 patients, with 100 more possible to accommodate in the attic. However, by the late 1930s and 1940s, over 2,000 patients were being housed, and overcrowding was severe. Reports got out that life in the asylum was miserable, as many people were lobotomized or sterilized by doctors. Many people died.

While the hospital was originally established to provide residential treatment and care to the mentally ill and the criminally insane, its functions expanded to include a training program for nurses in 1889 and a pathological research laboratory in 1895. In the 1890s, Dr. Charles Page, the superintendent, declared mechanical restraint unnecessary and harmful in cases of mental illness. By the 1920s the hospital was operating school clinics to help determine mental deficiency in children. During the 1960s as a result of increased emphasis on alternative methods of treatment, deinstitutionalization, and community-based mental health care, the inpatient population started to decrease. Due to budget cuts within the mental health system the hospital was closed in June 1992.

In December of 2005, the property was sold to Avalon Bay Development. Demolition of most of the buildings began in January of 2006, with the intent to build 497 apartments and condominiums on the 77 acre site. By June 2006, all of the Danvers State Hospital buildings that were marked for demolition had been torn down, including all of the buildings on the lower grounds and all of the buildings on the hill except for the center-most sections of the Kirkbride buildings. Avalon Bay predicted that they would have properties available for rent/sale by Fall 2007.

However, on April 7, 2007, four of the new apartment complex buildings and four of Avalon bay's construction trailers burned down in a large fire visible from Boston, some seventeen miles away. The fire was confined mostly to the buildings under construction on the eastern end, and the damage to the remaining Kirkbride spires slightly catching fire due to excessive heat. An investigation is underway concerning the cause of the fire. Avalon Bay provided a live web cam of the construction at the old site of the hospital at their website; however, the pictures cut out at approximately 2:03 AM the night of the fire, and the web cam was disabled, possibly due to the fire.

Images of Danvers State Hospital

Main Image Gallery: Danvers State Hospital


  • Danvers State, Memoirs Of A Nurse In The Asylum By Angelina Szot and Barbara Stillwell
  • The Eye of Danvers, A History of Danvers State Hospital By Michael Ramseur
  • Nobody's Child By Marie Balter and Richard Katz
  • Art therapy at Danvers By Shaun McNiff
  • Project 17 By Laurie Faria Stolarz


  • Session 9 (2001)

Marie Balter Video

Here is a three part video done on Marie Balter who had been a patient at the hospital and later a social worker there: <youtube v="SeFwPZvI6W0" /> <youtube v="jbOdbQpf3WU" /> <youtube v="w-ak6g-76t0" />


The former hospital property contains 2 cemeteries for patients. One contains 768 graves the other 93. Restoration efforts began on both in 1997 & continues today.
Danvers State Memorial Committee website