Tewksbury State Hospital, Administration Building // 1893

The Tewksbury State Hospital was established in 1852 as one of three Massachusetts State almshouses (along with Bridgewater and Monson). The almshouses were needed due to the unprecedented influx of Irish immigrants at that time, many of which found difficulty locating work. These almshouses represented the state’s first venture into care of the poor, a role previously filled by the cities and towns up to that time. In 1866, when Tewksbury began accepting the “pauper insane”, it became the state’s first facility to accept cases of chronic insanity specifically. Decades later, Massachusetts Governor Benjamin Butler accused the almshouse in Tewksbury in, “trading in bodies of dead paupers and transporting them for a profit to medical schools,” and “tanning human flesh to convert to shoes or other objects”. The facility was later investigated, and no conclusive evidence was found. In the late 19th century, a major rebuilding (and re-branding) campaign to upgrade the old almshouse by replacing its early wood-frame buildings with more durable and fireproof masonry ones was undertaken. One of the earliest “new” buildings was this Queen Anne-style Administration Building, standing at the head of the former entrance drive, which creates a fairly foreboding presence. This building was designed by Boston architect John A. Fox, and showcases the epitome of Queen Anne institutional design. The hospital runs today much like a traditional campus, with some of the older buildings unused, providing a strange composition. The former Administration Building is now home to the Massachusetts Public Health Museum.

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