The Looking Glass

Local Adventure: Walk through the Medfield State Hospital Grounds for an Historic Glimpse

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Emma Judge '22, Contributing Writer

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An eerie wind blows across the abandoned grounds. It seems as if the smallest gust could instantly topple one of the old, red brick buildings. The leaves rustle across the cracked cement roads, making the hairs on my arms stand on end. The Medfield State Hospital, formerly known as the Medfield Insane Asylum, is well known to all Montrose students, less than a mile from the school. The hospital opened in 1896, and closed in 2003 due to a dwindling amount of patients. The asylum has been the set of three films to date: The Box (2009), Shutter Island (2010), and The New Mutants (2019). All are thriller films, a fitting tribute to the land on which they were conceived.

The old asylum lies merely five minutes away from Montrose, across from McCarthy field. I visited the Medfield State Hospital with my dad and my friend on a sunny Sunday at the end of September. The air was crisp, but the sun kept the chill at bay. As we walked down the cracked streets and between the red brick buildings, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being followed. The feeling of eyes on the back of my head kept me looking over my shoulder every couple of minutes. Every building had a different feature that added to the sense of uncertainty. What happened here? As we continued our walk, I kept noticing details that seemed out-of-place: a lantern on top of the boarded windows, newer fire alarms, newer light fixtures, new metal doors. The complex closed down in 2003, yet it somehow looked so new. The chapel still had remnants of the white paint used to create the facade for Shutter Island.

The Medfield State Hospital is the state’s first hospital exclusively for the mentally ill. The estate was built on 425 acres of land and overlooks the Charles River. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, mental asylums were where people sent their mentally ill family members who they could no longer take care of. At the hospitals, doctors and nurses would take care of the patients until they, theoretically, got better. However, in most cases, the patients either died from age or from the “treatments” they were given to cure them of their insanity.

Walking through the premises, one might notice the houses that look like something out of a horror film. The doors are padlocked, and some of the wood is rotting. As you get further away from the brick buildings, it looks as if the town stopped trying to prevent entry into the houses. There are sloppily placed boards covering the doorways. The windows, broken or intact, are covered in plastic. Broken glass is strewn about the ground. Curiously enough, no broken windows are near the breakage. The house furthest from the hospital left me with a chilling feeling. Abandoned plastic stacking bricks, puzzle pieces, and a deflated orange ball lay amongst decomposing leaves and shards of unexplained broken glass. The trip to Medfield State Hospital is one I would highly recommend, whether it be for the history or walking your dog.

To learn more about the history of this historic Medfield site, see:

Short History of the Medfield State Hospital

The Rise and Fall of the Medfield State Hospital

Patriot Ledger Feature

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Local Adventure: Walk through the Medfield State Hospital Grounds for an Historic Glimpse