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Norwich State Hospital

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Norwich State Hospital

Norwich Hospital District
Norwich State Hospital
Location CT 12, Norwich-Preston, Connecticut

41°29′21″N 72°4′24″W / 41.48917°N 72.07333°W / 41.48917; -72.07333Coordinates: 41°29′21″N 72°4′24″W / 41.48917°N 72.07333°W / 41.48917; -72.07333

Area 70 acres (28 ha)
Built 1903
Architect Cudworth & Woodworth
Architectural style Colonial Revival, Late Gothic Revival
Governing body State
NRHP Reference # 87002424[1]
Added to NRHP January 22, 1988

The Norwich State Hospital, originally established as Norwich State Hospital for the Insane,[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.

A 70-acre (28 ha) property including the hospital was listed as historic district on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.[1]


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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] When the hospital closed in 1996, there were only five patient buildings still in use, the Kettle, Lodge, Seymour, Russell, and Gallup 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.[8]

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
  • 1988-National Register of Historic Places listing
  • 1996-Norwich Hospital was officially closed and remaining patients were transferred to Connecticut Valley Hospital


Modern Buildings

  • Ronald H. Kettle Treatment Center, a modern 250,000 sq. ft. four-story building constructed in 1959 and named after the hospital's superintendent in the 1950s. Used for admissions, medical treatment, and offices. Following the hospital's closure, the building was briefly occupied by the Southeastern Connecticut Mental Health Authority.[9][10][11]
  • Lodge Building, a modern 96,395 sq. ft. four-story building constructed in 1956 and named after John Davis Lodge. Originally dedicated as a women's treatment center, it was used as a continued care facility until the last patients moved out in 1994, though the Southeastern Connecticut Mental Health Authority continued to occupy space in the building.[9]
  • Ribicoff Research Center, a modern 30,635 sq. ft. laboratory building constructed in 1962 and named after Abraham A. Ribicoff. Used for clinical psychiatric and pathological research.
  • Russell Occupational Therapy Building, a modern 106,186 sq. ft. rehabilitation and recreation center constructed in 1956.[12]
  • Pond View Building, a modern building constructed in the 1960s. Used for employee housing.
  • A chapel was constructed in the early 1960s.
  • Fifteen physician's cottages, a power house, kitchen, and laundry building were constructed in the 1950s.[9]

Older Buildings

  • Administration Building, a Late Gothic Revival building constructed in 1908 and used for administrative offices.[13]
  • Central Theater, Dance Hall, Cafeteria, and Storeroom, also called the Main or Congregate Building, constructed in 1908 and situated behind the administration building.
  • Gallup Building, a 46,069 sq. ft. Colonial Revival building constructed in 1926 and originally used for male patient housing. In 1987, it became home to the Eugene T. Boneski chemical dependency treatment center until the hospital's closing.[10]
  • Mitchell Building, constructed in 1926 and similar to Gallup in design. Originally used for female patient housing, it was used for chemical dependency treatment until closing in the early 1970s and was then set on fire for a fire department training drill in 1981.
  • Seymour Building, a 32,156 sq. ft. Colonial Revival building originally used for the housing of tubercular patients in the 1930s. It was later used for geriatric patient housing until the hospital's closing.[9]
  • Salmon and Awl Buildings, 24,508 sq. ft. Colonial Revival buildings used as male and female forensic wards respectively. Flanking the administration building to the left and right, both were constructed in 1905 and closed in 1971.[14][15]
  • Lippitt Building, built in 1920. Originally used as the medical-surgical building and later used as an alcohol treatment clinic until its closure in 1979.[16]
  • Bryan Building, used as a geriatric facility. The building was originally the New London County Temporary Home, but was purchased by the hospital and dedicated in 1949. It was converted to an adolescent treatment center until closing in 1979. [17]
  • Ray Building, a 26,606 sq. ft. Colonial Revival building constructed in 1927 and used as a female infirmary. After closing, the building was later home to the hospital's print shop.[18]
  • Brigham and Bell Buildings, 45,840 sq. ft. matching Late Gothic Revival buildings constructed in 1907 and used for male and female patient housing respectively. These buildings were closed in the early 1970s and used for storage, though part of Bell continued to house the hospital's token economy program.
  • Stedman and Woodward Buildings, 31,472 sq. ft. matching Colonial Revival buildings constructed in 1913 and used for male and female patient housing respectively. These buildings were situated directly behind Salmon and Awl, and were closed in the early 1970s and used for storage.
  • Stribling, Earle, and Butler Buildings, similar Colonial Revival buildings constructed in 1911-1912. Stribling and Butler were originally part of the "back wards", a series of buildings used for the housing of violent patients. Stribling later served as a tuberculosis treatment center, while Earle was later used as a maintenance building and Butler was converted into a trade school until closing in the late 1960s.[19]
  • Kirkbride and Galt Buildings, similar Colonial Revival buildings constructed in the 1920s and used for patient housing. The Kirkbride Building closed in the late 1970s and was given to the Red Cross to be used as a disaster shelter until the 1990s, while the Galt Building closed in the early 1970s, later to be used as a firehouse.
  • Nurses' Home, built in 1939 and used as a nurses' dormitory.
  • Martin House (Male) and Pathway House (Female), used as dormitories for the hospital's employees. The Martin building was later used as an elderly housing complex until the hospital's closing.
  • Numerous cottages, a trade school, firehouse, carpenter and maintenance shop, club house, staff house, greenhouse, and garages were constructed on the campus.[9]

Demolished Buildings

  • Cutter and Dix Buildings, used as female patient housing until closing in 1956, when patients were moved to the newly opened Lodge building. Later used for storage up to the 1970s, then demolished while the hospital was still open.
  • Pines Building, used for the housing of tubercular patients until closing after all were consolidated in the Seymour Building.
  • Numerous farm buildings were demolished after the hospital discontinued its agricultural therapy.


The hospital was listed on the National Register in 1988. The NRHP listing included 40 contributing buildings and two contributing structures on 70 acres (28 ha).[1] It includes work by architects Cudworth & Woodworth. It includes Colonial Revival and Late Gothic Revival architecture.[1]

The district was deemed historically significant as illustrating a historic view of mental health treatment.[20]

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.[21]

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.[22]


Since the DPW first made an offer to the town of Preston to purchase a portion of the Norwich State Hospital, several proposals have been submitted for the use of the property. One of the earliest proposals was submitted by Utopia Studios, and was approved in May 2006. Utopia promised an entertainment complex consisting of a theme park, 4,200 hotel rooms, a performing arts school and a movie studio. The projected cost of this project was around $1.6 billion and was viewed favorably by the voters. However, in November of the same year, the proposal was canceled by the town due to Utopia missing several key deadlines and, most importantly, failing to place $53 million in escrow as agreed.[22]

In 2008, two developers, Northlang Investment Corporation and Preston Gateway Partners LLC, sought for approval to develop the land. The town accepted Northland's proposal for a billion-dollar luxury resort, but in November 2008, this plan was ended as well. Since then, eight additional developers have submitted proposals to develop the property, but as of March 2010 no agreement has been reached.[23][24]

Currently the property, which has become known as the Preston Riverwalk, is being considered for a project by the town's parks and recreation department. This would include a public access park for bird-watching, fishing and various other outdoor activities.

Historical Record

The Norwich State Hospital is listed on both the state and national historic register as a place of architectural and historical significance and thus many of the buildings, grounds, and infrastructure can not be removed (or even cleaned of medical waste material) without exception from both state and federal historical authorities. Demolition of the property started in Spring of 2011 with the collapse of the tunnels surrounding administration.

TV Appearances

Episodes two and four of season one of VH1's Celebrity Paranormal Project were filmed at the mental hospital though most likely to protect the place it was referred to as Warson Asylum for the Criminally Insane during both episodes.

The Norwich State Hospital was featured in the TV series Life After People, in the episode titled "Crypt of Civilization", which aired on January 19, 2010.

Syfy Channel's Ghost Hunters paranormal investigating team explored the location in their sixth season which aired May 5, 2010.[25]


External links

  • Salmon (male forensic) building Photoessay on the building reserved for male patients deemed "not guilty by reason of insanity" in court.
  • Beautiful photographs from Norwich State Hospital (2007)
  • Norwich State Hospital at Creepy Connecticut
  • Exploration Photos at EastGhost
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