Metropolitan State Hospital (Massachusetts)

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Metropolitan State Hospital
Metropolitan State Hospital Admin Building.jpg
Administration Building
Metropolitan State Hospital (Massachusetts) is located in Massachusetts
Metropolitan State Hospital (Massachusetts)
Metropolitan State Hospital (Massachusetts) is located in the US
Metropolitan State Hospital (Massachusetts)
Location Off Trapelo Rd., Belmont, Lexington, and Waltham, Massachusetts
Coordinates 42°24′20″N 71°12′49″W / 42.40556°N 71.21361°W / 42.40556; -71.21361Coordinates: 42°24′20″N 71°12′49″W / 42.40556°N 71.21361°W / 42.40556; -71.21361
Area 330 acres (130 ha)
Built 1927 (1927)
Architect Gordon C. Robb
Architectural style Colonial Revival
MPS Massachusetts State Hospitals and State Schools MPS
NRHP Reference # 93001482[1]
Added to NRHP January 21, 1994

The Metropolitan State Hospital was an American public hospital for the mentally ill, on grounds that extended across parts of Waltham, Lexington, and Belmont, Massachusetts. Founded in 1927, it was at one time the largest and most modern facility of its type in Massachusetts.[2] It was closed in January 1992 as a result of the state's cost-cutting policy of closing its mental hospitals and moving patients into private and community-based settings. The main complex of buildings has subsequently been redeveloped into apartments. The hospital campus was listed on the National Register of Historic Places 1994. The property also housed the Gaebler Children's Center for mentally ill youth.


The Metropolitan State Hospital's founding originated in legislation passed by the state in 1900, mandating that the state take over care for the mentally ill, which had in some cases only been handled at the local level. Site selection for a facility in the Greater Boston area, where the demand for additional space was the greatest, took until 1926. Ground was broken on the hospital buildings in 1926, and the facility was formally dedicated in 1928.

The hospital's design was reflective of the third stage of development of facilities for the mentally ill, after the Kirkbride Plan and the cottage/colony system. It also reflected the advent of roads rather than railroads as major transport arteries, as it was not located near any railroad lines. Its buildings were designed in the Colonial Revival style by Gordon Robb, with landscaping, based on principles laid down by the Olmsted Brothers, by R. Hayward Loring. At its peak, the facility had a patient population of nearly 2,000.[3]

The facility was closed in 1992.

Patient murder[edit]

In 1978, Metropolitan State patient Anne Marie Davee was murdered by another patient, Melvin W. Wilson.[4][5][6]


The hospital's cemetery still rests on the grounds, maintained by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Gravestones are marked by number and religion; a few bear names. The cemetery is labeled the Met-Fern Cemetery and both the Fernald School and Metropolitan State lay their dead patients here. Even though Metropolitan State is adjacent to the Gaebler Children's Center, there is no real record of any of the adolescent patients being laid to rest in the Met-Fern Cemetery.[7]

Redevelopment and open space[edit]

After the hospital's closing in 1992, the property stood vacant for fifteen years, as the state considered redevelopment possibilities. In 2007, some of the complex's residential wards located in the Lexington portion of the property were adaptively repurposed for conventional residential use as part of larger apartment complex development.[8] The Administration Building, pictured above, stands in Waltham.

The extensive wooded grounds are open to the public and protected in perpetuity from further development. The trails include part of the Western Greenway open space, connecting to the Rock Meadow conservation area in Belmont to the east and, according to plans, in 2009, to the Middlesex County Hospital area to the west.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ Richard A. Hogarty (2002). Massachusetts politics and public policy: studies in power and leadership. University of Massachusetts Press. p. 115. ISBN 978-1-55849-362-9. 
  3. ^ "NRHP nomination for Metropolitan State Hospital". Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved 2017-02-21. 
  4. ^ "The dismembered body of a Metropolitan State... " Boston Globe Aug 12, 1980
  5. ^ "Backman: Hospital Murder Data Missing" Boston Globe Aug 15, 1980
  6. ^ "Mental patient held in dismemberment murder". St. Joseph Gazette. Aug 13, 1980. Retrieved 29 October 2013. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Lexington - Area AA Survey". Town of Lexington. Retrieved 2017-02-21. 

External links[edit]