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Featured Article Of The Week

Boston State Hospital


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The Boston State Hospital – originally called the Boston Lunatic Asylum – was founded in South Boston in 1839. By the 1880s, new ideas about the care of the mentally ill emphasized the importance of fresh air, hard work, and separation from the adverse influences (both social and environmental) of city life, an approach that was referred to as “moral treatment.” Thus, when the time came to move out of the old and overcrowded facilities in South Boston, the Asylum’s leaders looked to West Roxbury – at that time a semi-rural area that had only recently been incorporated into the city of Boston – as an appropriate setting for a new hospital.

Beginning in 1884, some Asylum residents were moved to the former almshouse at Austin Farm, just across Morton Street from the present Boston Nature Center, where the Harvard Commons development stands today. In 1892, looking for more room for both buildings and farmland, the City purchased the 35-acre Pierce Farm, along Walk Hill and Canterbury Streets – part of which land is now the western end of the BNC. A few years later, the City bought another parcel of land, adjoining Pierce Farm and Canterbury Street, which now includes much of the Clark Cooper Community Gardens and other areas in the central part of the BNC.

It was soon decided that Austin Farm would house women, while Pierce Farm became the “Department for Men” of the recently renamed Boston Insane Hospital. The new buildings at Pierce Farm, designed by city architect Edmund March Wheelwright, opened in 1895, and a few additional farm buildings were added over the following years. Click here for more...