When I returned to the abandoned Medfield State Hospital yesterday I got to thinking about how the little details that remain decaying on the property offer glimpses into what life was like for the patients and staff that lived and died working in this place. I discovered that my imagination is greatly helped if I simply peer into the windows of the buildings with windows that aren't completely covered with red painted plywood. Near the center of the campus is a building that appears to have been built in the the 1940s or 50s. It is easily identified by a spray painted sign over a door.
Here in the kitchens, some 2,000+ meals were prepared three times a day for employees and patients at the asylum. They grew and raised much of what they ate. Medfield Public Library's Adults Services Librarian Mare Parker-O'Toole opened up her files for me yesterday. Within her files I discovered an invaluable presentation prepared by a nurse who started working at the hospital in 1952. Veronica Hill wrote:
The Farm House, which is across the street from the Medfield Complex, as completed in 1901 to provide living quarters for the head farmer and his family, as well as 14 farm hands and 30 patients. The farm was to play a very important role in the lives of the patients and the economy of the hospital for many, many years. It was finally closed in the late 1960s as it was no longer economically feasible. It was really a shame to see the farm house and all the farm lands quiet down and no longer be productive. This had been a great source of patient working and needless to say we, and I mean that collectively, at the hospital enjoyed their efforts and their hard work by enjoying their fresh vegetable, the eggs, dairy products, and etc. It was really something. The patients really enjoyed it and we enjoyed the outcome of their work.
The farms were indeed productive places. Below is a scan of the bounty produced by the hospital during it's first six months of operation in 1896. They sure ate a lot of pickles. There was enough so every staff and patient could eat at least 30 pickles that year.
I discovered that my imagination isn't the only thing I have going for me. I can look at small details on the abandoned grounds. I can forage in archives for oral histories and other documents that describe what life is like. I can also just simply peer into the windows of the buildings with windows that aren't completely covered with red painted plywood. Near the center of the campus is a building that appears to have been built in the the 1940s or 50s.
It is easily identified by a spray painted sign over a door that says "kitchen." Let's take a peek.
If you visit, be careful when you peek. First, the vast majority of the buildings are falling apart and the wooden porches are rotting. The floors aren't able to support any weight. Additionally, there is a private security guard that randomly roams the property. He requested that I don't stand on porches (stable or not) to peer in windows.
I've always had a listening problem.