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Report Of Commissioners Appointed To Superintend Erection Of A Lunatic Hospital At Worcester

From: Reports And Other Documents Relating To The State Lunatic Hospital At Worcester, Mass.
Creator:  Horace Mann, Bezaleel Taft, Jr., and W.B. Calhoun (authors)
Date: January 4, 1832
Publisher: Dutton and Wentworth, Boston
Source: Available at selected libraries

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To His Excellency LEVI LINCOLN, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.


The Commissioners appointed in pursuance of a Resolve of the Legislature, of March 10, A. D. 1830, "to superintend the erection of a Hospital, of sufficient dimensions to accommodate a superintendent and one hundred and twenty insane or mad persons,"




That the entire foundation, the external and partition walls, the roof and the windows of such a hospital, are now completed. Having so far performed the duties assigned them under their commission, they now deem it incumbent upon them to give a detailed account of the manner in which those duties have been discharged.


The slightest reflection will render it obvious, that an edifice designed for the residence of the insane, must be materially different, both in form and in interior arrangement, from ordinary habitations. The insane require equable warmth, but they cannot be entrusted with fire. They require light and pure air, but the doors and windows which give light and ventilation to common dwellings, would furnish them with facilities for escape, and with opportunities for inflicting personal injury, or even self-destruction. The insane often possess more than the ordinary strength of men, but they are far less capable than children of rendering it subservient to their own welfare, and no human agency can always be present with them to direct or control it. When great numbers of this unfortunate class of people are collected together, not only considerations of convenience in superintending them, but the probabilities of their restoration and their security from mutual injuries, require a classification founded upon scientific principles, according to the various degrees of intensity, or forms of violence, which their maladies may assume. Regarded as individuals, suffering under some bodily or organic disease, (as is ordinarily the case,) it is apparent, that any habitation designed for their residence must partake, in a great degree, of the character of an infirmary. No vigilance of care, or expense of labor, can successfully accomplish all these objects, if unaided by the skilful adaptation of the form and interior arrangement of the edifice in which they are placed. Architectural fitness, then, becomes indispensable to their welfare; it promotes humane and compassionate treatment, gives additional efficacy to medical skill, and often disarms the rage of a spirit, intent upon the destruction of the body in which it dwells.


The resolve above referred to, gave the Commissioners no discretion as to the extent of the accommodations to be prepared; but the choice of the materials, the form of the structure, with all the appendages, were submitted entirely to their views of propriety and fitness. Taking into consideration the public character of the edifice, and the object for which it was designed, the Commissioners believe that no one could approve the use of a material less durable than brick or granite. The latter would have been preferred on some accounts, but as the difference in the expense would have been about thirty per cent., considerations of economy seemed imperative, and it was decided to construct it of brick. The bricks used in the work are judged, by competent men, to be of such a quality as to remove all grounds of apprehension on account of the durability of the fabric.


To devise a plan for the construction of the Hospital, and for the commodious disposition of all its requisite appendages, occasioned the Commissioners much solicitude. Of the variety of establishments for similar purposes, existing in Europe and in this country, not any two are constructed alike. Each, it is presumed, has been the result of an attempt to improve upon all which preceded it; but so various, and, in some degree, so conflicting are the objects sought to be accomplished, that the very means adopted for the furtherance of one, has, either directly or incidentally, been prejudicial to some other. It is not, therefore, without diffidence, that the Commissioners submit a particular description of the plan which, after much inquiry and deliberation, they have adopted.


The Hospital consists of a centre building and two wings. The centre building is 76 feet in length, 40 feet in width, and four stories in height. The wings are each 90 feet long in front, and 100 in the rear, 36 feet wide, and three stories high. They are in the same line, extending to the right and left from the opposite ends of the centre building. The front of the centre building projects 22 feet forward of the front of the wings. The wings, being 36 feet wide, half their width, or 18 feet, joins upon the centre building; the other half falls in its rear. This arrangement connects the centre with the wings, so far as to allow a free communication between them by means of stairways and thorough-fares, and, at the same time, so far disconnects them, that the inside ends of the long halls in the wings, (hereafter mentioned,) falling in the rear of the centre, open into the external air, and thus, as it regards ventilation, the advantages of separate buildings are secured to the wings.

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