Monson Developmental Center

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Monson Developmental Center
Established 1852
Opened 1854
Closed 2012
Current Status Closed
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Monson, MA
Architecture Style Colonial Revival
Peak Patient Population 1,700 in 1968
Alternate Names
  • State Almshouse at Monson
  • Monson Sanitarium
  • Massachusetts State Hospital for Epileptics
  • Monson State Hospital


The State Almshouse at Monson, MA provided residence for paupers without settlement [legal residence] in the Commonwealth from 1854 to 1872. The State Primary School opened at the almshouse in 1866 and continued after its closing until 1895, providing lodging, instruction, and employment for dependent and neglected children under age sixteen without settlement in the Commonwealth and some juvenile offenders. In 1879 there was a total of 443 children, 99 of whom were females between the ages of 5 and 12. Children participated in work-related activities, including sewing, laundry and farming. Studies in school included bible stories, Edward’s 1st-4th Reader, geography, arithmetic, writing, grammar, physiology and history. Discipline was as parental as possible. Children were subsequently adopted, indentured or fostered out of the institution.

Beginning in 1895, the physical plant of the institution was reconstructed as part of its conversion into the Massachusetts State Hospital for Epileptics. The old almshouse, which was essentially a frame reconstruction of the 1848 reformatory in Westborough, was torn down and replaced by a series of brick cottages intended for the treatment of epilepsy. From the outset, most patients at the hospital also suffered from related intellectual disabilities and mental illness. This prompted a gradual shift in focus over the course of the century. By the late 60's, Monson Developmental Center. as the facility came to be known. exclusively provided services to the intellectually disabled who were also suffering related health and mobility issues.

The Hospital's closing was announced in December 2008 as part of a cost-cutting move and a push by the state to relocate developmentally disabled residents into community-based group homes, intended to mirror home environments more closely. At that time, there were 137 severely disabled residents living there, and 403 employees. The campus was fully closed in June 2012. In 2017, the state opened a request for proposals for redevelopment of about 256 acres, representing most of the previously developed portion of the land.


Main Image Gallery: Monson Developmental Center