Templeton Developmental Center

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Templeton Developmental Center
Established 1896
Opened 1899
Current Status Active
Building Style Single Building
Location Templeton, MA
Alternate Names
  • Templeton Farm Colony
  • Templeton Colony of the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded


The Fernald School's Farm Colony at Templeton came into being in 1899 with the purchase of 1,660 acres near the Baldwinville Railroad Station, for just under $20,000. Dr. Fernald and the Trustees first requested such a colony in 1896 to provide a useful and happy living situation for trained adult males with no prospect of an outside living situation. The new site was described as a territory three miles long by one mile wide, containing seventeen parcels of land, and encompassing three hills rising over 1,200 feet.

Within two years, the Templeton Farm had a patient population of 99, living in three colonies: Farm, Narragansett, and Eliot. By 1904, 200 acres had been cleared for a fourth colony: Brook. During the next few years, great progress continued to be made, further realizing Dr. Fernald's dream of cultivating the wilderness. In 1904, fifty acres were put under cultivation, with an additional twenty sown for fodder. Another twenty acres produced 2,000 bushels of potatoes along with 400 barrels of apples. Similar progress was reported in 1906 when seventeen acres of woodland were cleared, forty-six acres were planted with corn for fodder, and the farm produced 3,700 bushels of potatoes, fourteen tons of squash, and enough other vegetables to fill eleven carloads for shipment to Waltham. The boys were described as "contented, happy, and have developed self-respect".

The acreage and agricultural productivity of Templeton continued to grow in the pre-World War II period. In 1912, the campus was expanded with 64 additional acres bought at $10 per acre with private funds. Building improvements continued as well. An on-site freight station was erected in 1912 to obviate the six-mile trip to Baldwinville. In 1922, Brook House was destroyed by fire, but a new recreation building/assembly hall was erected by the staff and patients for $5,000. In 1938 Templeton was finally brought into the modern age with construction of a new water and sewerage system to replace wells, and an electric power plant began to supply light and steam heat, replacing kerosene lamps, fires, and stoves.

The Governor & Council Report of 1945 considered Templeton, along with it's parent institution the Fernald School, to be outstanding in their work among children. It was noted that the Templeton farm was staffed with 30 paid employees and 250 patients, and that it produced abundant food for its own uses and for Fernald. There were 300 acres under cultivation, 15 milking cows with 120 head of young cattle being raised to supplement the herd, a small piggery, and no poultry. A brief internal history notes that the Templeton Colony achieved national recognition for its agricultural production between the 1930s and the 1960s. It raised the largest oxen in the world in 1959, and by 1960 was second in the united States in milk production. During this period the residential population peaked at 370 with a staff of 94. In 1967 a new sewerage system was installed, and several new dormitories were added to Narragansett Colony.

Today all of the original buildings have been replaced by modern housing & farming operations have ceased.