Medfield State Hospital

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Medfield State Hospital
Established 1892
Construction Began 1896
Opened 1896
Closed 2003
Current Status Closed
Building Style Cottage Plan
Architect(s) William Pitt Wentworth
Location Medfield, MA
Alternate Names
  • Medfield Insane Asylum


Medfield State Hospital was founded by an act of the State Legislature in 1892. The property consisted of several hundred acres and twenty two buildings. Over the years the buildings and land were increased until it reached its maximum size of some fifty eight buildings and nine hundred plus acres.

The Hospital has had as many as 2,200 patients on the property and a staff of in the range of 500-900 persons. It was in effect, a self contained community with a population at the time rivaling the size of the Town of Medfield. The facility supplied its own power, heat, water, sewage system, and raised its own livestock and produce. Medfield State Hospital claimed to be the first mental health hospital to be built on the “cottage plan” with individual buildings to allow for better light ventilation, easier classification, and to create a more homelike environment.

During the Kennedy Administration, in the early 1960s, Congress passed a law requiring that all mental health patients in the United States be housed or hospitalized in the least restrictive environment possible. In the early seventies, as a result of this law, patients, guardians, and parents of patients filed a class action suit against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Department of Mental Health (DMH) to require the DMH to conform with the federal law. In 1974, a federal court consent decree was entered into by the DMH resulting in the relocation of most mental patients from isolated mental institutions to community based halfway houses and hospitals. A result of this decision has been to reduce the number of patients at Medfield to approximately 200. It has also set in motion DMH’s plan to eventually dispose all or part of the Medfield facility, along with seven other similar institutions across the State.

Because a large part of the property was either in the Charles River Flood Plain or was environmentally valuable, some 350-acres, of the 900 plus acres was transferred to the Department of Environmental Management (formerly the Department of Natural Resources) during the early 1970s. Fifty seven acres was given to the Town of Medfield for recreational purposes and some ten acres was taken for the new Route 27 right of way.

The Town of Medfield purchased the property from DCAMM in December 2014. Prior to the purchase by the town, a mediation committee worked with DCAMM to complete the remediation of the former State Hospital landfill area adjacent to the Charles River. A $5 Million Dollar cleanup restored the floodplain and capped impacted landfill material on site, converting the former power plant area into a public park. Since closing, the hospital also served as filming locations for motion pictures such as Shutter Island, The Box, and Knives Out.


Main Image Gallery: Medfield State Hospital


  • The following is a thirty minute video on the history of Medfield State Hospital that was uploaded to YouTube by Medfield TV.


The Medfield State Hospital Cemetery is the burial place of 841 patients who died while residents of the Medfield State Hospital between 1918-1988. Until 2005, the gravestones were small concrete squares that only contained a number. However, in September 2005, new markers with names and dates were placed at each grave.


City of Medfield updates on the property [1]