Norwich State Hospital, Connecticut
The Norwich State Hospital, originally established as Norwich State Hospital for the Insane, is located in Preston, Connecticut and Norwich, Connecticut. It opened its doors in October, 1904, and though the number of patients and employees were drastically reduced, it remained operational until October, 1996., Norwich State Hospital was a mental health facility initially created for the mentally ill and those found guilty of crimes by insanity. Throughout its years of operation, however, it also housed geriatic patients, chemically dependent patients and, from 1931 to 1939, Tubercular patients., The hospital, which sits on the banks of the Thames River, began with a single building on one hundred acres of land and expanded to, at its peak, over thirty buildings and nine hundred acres.
Development of the grounds
In October, 1904 when the hospital first opened, it held ninety-five patients and was a single building. The facility quickly outgrew its meager beginnings, and by fall of 1905, it held 151 patients and had expanded its housing by adding two additional buildings. In 1907, a third patient building was opened, and over the next eight years, there would be the addition of thirteen structures to the grounds. The hospital began to branch out, no longer creating housing intended only for patients, but for hospital physicians, a laboratory, an employees club, a main kitchen and various other structures to support the every-day workings of the hospital. Like most mental hospitals at that time, it was self-sufficient, and a barn, two garages, a paint shop and a greenhouse were also added. By the end of the 1930s, over twenty buildings had been added to the grounds.
To provide an identification system, each building was given a name, usually after that of a superintendent or other state hospital. Some of the more well known structures were the Seymour building, which housed the tubercular patients in the 1930s, the Pines building, which was closed when the Seymour building was built and the Kirkbride, named after a founding member of the mental health field. Gradually, though, as the number of patients and employees began to decrease, when a new structure was built, an older one would be closed, and by the 1970s, only 7 of the original buildings were still in use, the others used for either storage or abandoned completely.When the hospital closed in 1996, there were only two of the original buildings still in use, the Kettle and the Lodge buildings.
Due to the large number to structures and the hundreds of acres they stood on, the majority of buildings were connected by a series of underground passageways. The main purpose of these tunnels were for the utilities, however, they were often used to transport patients from one area to another, and it was speculated that they were locations used for the torture of patients who became uncontrollable. In more recent times, the tunnels have become a means of transportation for trespassers who hope to explore the grounds of the hospital undetected by the security officers who have been hired by the state to patrol the vacant site.
Timeline of changes and patient census (1904 to 1996)
- 1904-Established as Norwich State Hospital for the Insane, patient population was ninety-five
- 1905-Establishment of a training school for nurses
- 1913-Patient population was 998
- 1916-Patient population was 1,227
- 1918-Patient population was 1,231
- 1920-Patient population was 1,341
- 1926-Name was changed to Norwich State Hospital
- 1929-Patient population was 1,115
- 1930-Patient population was 2,422, training school for nurses closed due to inability to meet the standards of the State Board of Nurse Examiners
- 1941-For the first time since opening, discharges of patients (917) exceeded the admissions of patients (626)
- 1953-Administratively transferred to the Department of Mental Health
- 1955-Patient population was 3,186
- 1960-Patient population was 2,685
- 1961-Renamed Norwich Hospital
- 1972-Patient population was 1,148
- 1996-Norwich Hospital was officially closed and remaining patients were transferred to Connecticut Valley Hospital
In 1996, when Norwich State Hospital was closed, the State Department of Public Works (DPW) became responsible for the property. In 2005, after several unsuccessful attempts to sell the property, The DPW proposed the sale of 419 acres (1.70 km2) of the former hospital’s campus to the town of Preston, and 61 acres (250,000 m2) to the town of Norwich for one dollar. Both towns were given three years to close the transfer of the property.
In March, 2009, the town of Preston purchased 390 acres (1.6 km2) of the property offered to them by the state. In spring of 2009, the Preston Redevelopment Agency was created to oversee the development of the newly acquired property. According to the sale agreement, the state would provide for the security presence, maintenance and insurance of the property until March, 2010, at which point the town of Preston would take responsibility for the cost of these, as well as begin the property cleanup.