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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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The roof of the Hospital is covered with slate. Besides the security which this material furnishes against fire, any other covering, it was believed, would seem incongruous with the public character of the building, its solidity, and expected durability.


To prevent unhealthful moisture from being deposited upon the inside walls of the edifice, an interstice or open space is left between the external and internal courses of bricks -- the courses being strongly fastened together by tiles -- so that a free circulation of air through all the exterior walls, from the underpinning to the attic, will effectually obviate that almost universal inconvenience of brick habitations. -- Carpenters are now engaged in completing the wood-work.


It is obvious, that in an establishment like the one under consideration, an abundant supply of water, easily obtained, is more indispensable than in one appropriated to any other purpose. To carry a sufficiency of water by hand, or even to propel it by pumps, over so extensive a building, would have demanded so much labor, that its faithful performance could seldom be secured. At the distance of about 150 rods to the north east of the Hospital-site, is an elevation of land rising many feet higher than the top of the Hospital itself, which promised to contain living springs of water. The Commissioners were of opinion, that, if water could be conveyed from this hill to a reservoir in the top of the Hospital, its abundance and the ease with which it could always be obtained, would promote cleanliness more effectually than could be done by any vigilance or discipline on the part of the Superintendent. They therefore made an arrangement with William Eaton, Esq., the proprietor of the land above mentioned, by which they were permitted to open wells and lay an aqueduct, and by which the Commonwealth may exercise the same privilege for the same purpose, at any future time, by paying to him, or his assigns, as damages, whatever sum of money the selectmen of the town of Worcester for the time being may award. The pipes have been laid, and have afforded a supply of water for the use of the masons in the prosecution of their work. Whether a sufficiency of water for the purposes before mentioned can be obtained from this source, is a question to be tested by experiment in a drier season, though very little apprehension is felt that the experiment will not be satisfactory.


It will be seen, by reference to the report of the Committee which accompanied the resolve for the erection of the Hospital, that the original appropriation of thirty thousand dollars was expected to defray the cost of the edifice, including all the masons and carpenters' work and materials, but exclusive of the expense of furnishing the rooms, and of all incidental charges. Such progress has now been made in the work, that the Commissioners are able to state, that the preparation of the grounds; the excavation and stoning of the cellar; the construction of a road, by which an easy access is gained to the elevated site of the Hospital, requiring the removal of about nine thousand cubic yards of gravel; raising the exterior walls of the edifice, which is 256 feet in length, with partition walls of brick carried up from the foundation, and dividing it into more than one hundred and thirty apartments; the roof of slate; the very expensive windows, with all the carpenters' labor and materials, so far as the same have been necessary in the progress of the work, have been accomplished at an expense something less than twenty-four thousand dollars.


As there is now reason to believe that the first appropriation will accomplish all that was expected from it, it remains only to furnish the Hospital in a suitable manner, to erect the necessary out-buildings, to enclose the grounds, to fence out the separate yards, (1) corresponding with the classification of the inmates, and to build a few solitary cells of great strength, deemed necessary in the opinion of the Commissioners for the confinement of those who are both dangerous and incurable, and whom bolts and bars alone can restrain. For these objects, the Legislature will make such further appropriation as they may deem expedient.

(1) Note by the Superintendent. -- When the Hospital was erected, it was considered indispensable that yards, with high fences, should be provided for the exercise and airing of the patients. All institutions in the country have had them, and, so far as it is known, they are found connected with similar institutions in Europe. In warm climates they must be beneficial, as patients can spend a large proportion of their time in the open air. In this climate it is not so -- we have but few days in the year when patients can be safely suffered to lie upon the ground, a habit to which they are greatly prone, when in yards, unless strictly watched. Experience has satisfied me that yards are useless; especially so to this institution, since spacious and beautiful verandahs have been added to our wings. These are available at all seasons, and in all kinds of weather, are always neat and clean, and far less forbidding than yards. Airing and exercising grounds should not be enclosed in a manner that constantly presents the idea of confinement and bondage. Whenever patients are abroad, a sufficient number of attendants should accompany them, to afford security without restraint. Attendants, uniting with them in games, or accompanying them in their walks, seem to them companions and guides, rather than keepers; of course no unpleasant impression is excited if the conduct of the patients is regular and orderly; they go and come like persons at large and free -- their self-respect is awakened, which prevents acts of violence and indecency. Quite different are the feelings of patients when shut up in yards -- conscious of imprisonment and consequent degradation, they roll in the dirt, indulge in profane and obscene language, make unceasing efforts to escape, and are in a state of continual irritation and excitement. Escapes from yards have been numerous in this establishment, far more than from all other situations put together. From my experience I am ready to say, that as much care is necessary to prevent mischief and injury to health, and escapes, in yards, as in open fields, if attendants do their duty in both. Idiotic and torpid patients, to be sure, can be kept in these enclosures, but they are sure, if not constantly watched, to get upon the ground, take off their clothes, and especially uncover their heads, and expose them to the direct rays of the sun. These considerations induced the Board of Trustees to abandon the yards, especially as we have porticos or verandahs as a substitute, which afford every advantage of yards for the class of patients that cannot be permitted to go at large in the open field, and to many others. -- May, 1837.

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