Hospital Hill ghosts restless over change

From The Republican

Monday, December 17, 2007
by Fred Contrada

Once upon a time – 1856 to be precise – the great lights of their day built an asylum for the insane atop a hill in Northampton and called it the Northampton Lunatic Hospital.

You wouldn’t have wanted to spend the weekend there, but it was created with the good intention of providing humane treatment for the mentally ill.

In 1903, with the patient population up to 650, the institution changed its name to Northampton State Hospital. By 1952, there were more than 1,000 patients and the place was a village unto itself.

With more than 500 workers, it was the biggest employer in Northampton. Many of them lived on the grounds and went from one building to another through underground tunnels.

The hospital boasted its own farm, piggery, bowling alley and beauty parlor. Legend has it there was also a sort of Potter’s Field where inmates were buried in unmarked graves, the location of which remains unknown to this day.

By the 1990s, the approach to mental health had come full circle and the powers that be declared the mentally ill were better served in the communities from which they came. The hospital gradually shut down, and everyone left. But for all the blood, sweat and tears shed there, the place will forever be known as Hospital Hill.

Wait. Make that Village Hill Northampton.

Story Continues…

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