Dr. Channing's Private Asylum
|Dr. Channing's Private Asylum|
|Building Style||Cottage Plan|
|Architect(s)||Kilham & Hopkins|
Walter Channing, a Harvard-trained physician who worked at several asylums before opening the “Private Hospital for Mental Diseases” at the base of Fisher Hill in Brookline in 1879. Compared to most of the other asylums in the region, Channing’s sanitarium was unique in the treatment it prescribed. Due to the relatively small number of patients — 25 or so appeared to be the maximum at any time — its doctors and nurses were able to provide individualized treatments that focused more on routing out the cause of the illness rather than merely suppressing its symptoms. How this was accomplished required not only occupational therapy and other physical therapies (such as hydrotherapy, massage therapy, and electrotherapy), but also a somewhat primitive form of modern psychotherapy. Another relatively pioneering approach that Channing subscribed to was the belief that there was a benefit to employing female nurses over male orderlies.
Little seemed to change at the sanitarium when Channing moved it from Brookline to Wellesley in 1916. Although the reasons for moving are unclear, I’m guessing that it had to do with the rapid development of Brookline that had begun during the 1890s and accelerated post-1900. Fisher Hill was just no longer conducive for a sanitarium. Much of Wellesley, however — including the area around Great Plain and Wellesley Avenues (now part of the Babson College campus) — was still largely undeveloped. Channing Sanitarium (in Wellesley) originally consisted of seven buildings — all designed by the nationally renowned architectural firm of Kilham & Hopkins.
Patients weren’t confined to cell-like rooms, but rather encouraged to walk among the surrounding woods. Each also had his or her own private suite with its own living room, bathroom, and open-air sleeping porch. (Eight of the twenty-four suites also had an indoor bedroom.) In addition to the four dormitories, there were three other buildings on the sanitarium grounds: one housing administrative offices, a service building (presumably where many of the employees resided and the only of the seven original buildings no longer standing), and a third used for both recreation and treatment.
Channing Sanitarium would close in 1951 after its acquisition by Roger W. Babson, founder of the Babson Institute. Although Babson intended at first to keep the sanitarium operational, as he was always fascinated by “the relationship between the physical condition of the average man’s brain and the efficiency of his work”, the plans quickly changed to establishing a graduate school there. But even that idea never came to fruition as the increasing enrollment of the Babson Institute necessitated the use of the facility’s buildings for faculty and student housing. The former sanitarium is now known as Woodland Hill.