The Male Asylum building at the Tewksbury State Hospital was built in 1901 from plans by architect John A. Fox, who designed the Administration Building and many other buildings in the hospital/asylum campus. The building was eventually renamed after Anne Sullivan, who is best known as the teacher and companion of Helen Keller. Anne Sullivan contracted a bacterial eye disease known as trachoma, which caused many painful infections and, over time, made her nearly blind. When she was eight, her mother died from tuberculosis, and her father abandoned the children two years later for fear he could not raise them on his own. She and her younger brother, James (Jimmie), were sent to the run-down and overcrowded Tewksbury Almshouse (later renamed the Tewksbury Hospital) as a result, where she endured multiple unsuccessful eye operations and poor, cramped conditions. The male asylum building held cramped dormitories with men and boys suffering from various ailments and mental conditions. The building sits atop a stunning rubblestone foundation and features prominent Romanesque arched windows.
Located adjacent to the Administration Building at the Tewksbury State Hospital, the Superintendent’s Residence, built in 1894, combines elements of the Craftsman and Colonial Revival styles wonderfully. The home is two-stories, and built of red brick laid in Flemish bond, capped with a slate hipped roof with exposed rafters. A massive uncovered porch wraps around the home and sits atop a rubblestone foundation. Like the adjacent Administration Building, the Superintendent’s Residence was also designed by Boston architect John A. Fox. From this residence, the massive almshouse and asylum would be run by the superintendent, who oversaw day to day activities and made sure everything was running smoothly. The house appears vacant now.
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.
In 1894, Hiram P. Dinsmore, a clerk at the nearby Tewksbury Almshouse, purchased land not too far from his work to build a home for his family. The well-designed late-Victorian home features a wrap-around porch, a corner tower, twin sunburst or flower motifs, and the use of shingle and clapboard siding, all hallmarks of the Queen Anne style. After Hiram’s death, his wife and children lived in the home, and it was later willed to his daughter Beatrice and her husband, both of whom worked at the Tewksbury Almshouse (since renamed Tewksbury Hospital). The home has seen some deterioration with large sections of siding completely open to the elements unobscured by paint and a sagging porch roof. Hope to see this beauty restored.