Demolition Begins at Mass. State Hospital

Medium-sized image unavailable for this photo.
The turret of Worcester State Hospital will be stabilized instead of razed to make way for a new psychiatric hospital.

Credit: Larry Gilman

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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Submitted by at: November 20, 2009
Oh my god... is what I said when I saw this state Hospital building in preservation magazine... it is wonderful and grand has to be saved... we will never see anything like this built again and it needs to be the "letterhead" for the new hospital, showing how long they have been helping people. It could serve as offices for the hospital, a great place for hospital fund raisers, they could sell bricks for walks around it and and rough stone benches for fund raisers. Part of it could be used for a lodging for guests coming to see relatives and historic tax credits could be passed on as an incentive to people willing to donate large sums of money in its restoration. COME ON PEOPLE - MAKE THIS HAPPEN ... too many of these great old structures are buried in landfills this one still needs to make a GRAND statement for the Grand, New Hospital which is going to provide love and care giving to those in need - much like this building needs now - David Barzen

Submitted by floyd51944 at: May 4, 2009
Well here is another fine example of "out with the old and in with the new". I was fortunate to have had the pleasure to drive around and see this magnificent structure up close. You can only appreciate it's architect and beauty from seeing it personally. I don't know the price it would cost to restore and repair the entire facility because I know it's massive but if we continue to "RAZ" every old structure just because it's old then pretty soon we will not have anything left for the next generation. Just look how long it has stood the test of time through the years and not even a fire could bring it down. Now do you once even think that something built today will even come close to lasting anywhere near this structures age? Most buildings this day and age are made from cheap, thin, inexpensive material not rock, marble and stone. This structure should not have got in this condition in the first place but i guess people just dont think anymore. I beleive the entire place can be saved, just start on one part, finish, then go to the next. It doesn't have to be done all at the same time. After all if has lasted this long i don't think it a few more years are going to hurt ut just don't wait another 20 years to do something. Well that's my thoughts on this situation but i could keep going so I'll end it here. If you feel the same as i do my email is

Submitted by at: July 15, 2008
Just a small correction: the WSH Kirkbride building was designed by Worcester architect Ward P. Delano who followed a basic hospital design plan conceived by Doctor Thomas Kirkbride (not an architect). I wish Preservation Worcester the best of luck in their efforts to save the clock tower. It's such a shame the rest of the building is gone. The clock tower should be preserved.