Demolition Begins at Mass. State Hospital
By Gianna Palmer | Online Only | July 14, 2008
At 250 feet high, the clock tower at Worcester State Hospital in Worcester, Mass., is a prominent town landmark and one of just two buildings that may be preserved on the hospital's historic campus.
Last year, the state approved plans for construction of a new $278 million psychiatric facility on the site, ensuring the demise of several buildings and the stabilization of another two.
Designed by George Dutton Rand, the facility, originally named Worcester State Lunatic Hospital, was established in the 1870s as the first state-owned hospital in the country founded specifically to treat mental illness. The new hospital will be built on site, and many of the remaining Victorian Gothic buildings will be razed.
Preservation Worcester is spearheading the effort to preserve the clock tower and neighboring Hooper Turret, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The new hospital is part of a $250 million bond bill that the state approved last year.
Deborah Packard, executive director of Preservation Worcester, explains that the two buildings would be sold as separate entities from the new hospital, and therefore would serve a different function than the new facility.
"The state set aside funding to do a marketing study on how to market these two buildings," Packard says. "We're working with the state right now on that study."
Packard says that up to $250,000 has been set aside to study the potential reuse of the buildings. The interiors of both buildings were badly damaged by fire in 1991 and would need considerable repair to be functional again.
Though Packard acknowledges that the site has already lost many "wonderful buildings," she remains guardedly optimistic about the future of the clock tower and the Hooper Turret: "We have these two left and we want to make sure they're put to use."
Correction: In a previous version of this story, we misidentified the architect. According to the listing in the National Register of Historic Places, Weston & Rand are the original architects of the clock tower. We regret this error.
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