Artifacts up for bid

From The Republican
By Fred Contrada
Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sink and Urinal, listing #15293
Sink and Urinal, listing #15293
If you’ve ever wanted a urinal or a shower head from the former Northampton State Hospital, now is the time.

These and other mementos from the 19th century complex once called the Northampton Lunatic Hospital are currently up for bid, courtesy of the city’s Historical Commission. Proceeds from the on-line auction will go towards restoring the fountain that once sat in front of Old Main, the administrative building on the 500 acre campus that stood upon Hospital Hill.

Built in the 1850s, Northampton State Hospital housed 2,500 patients, employed 500 workers and operated out of 70 buildings at its height. It included a piggery, a bowling alley and underground tunnels linking the buildings. Former patients are reportedly buried in unmarked graves on the grounds.

The thriving hospital began downsizing in the 1970s as the state deinstitutionalized, placing people with mental health issues in community homes instead. It closed for good in 1993, and the long process of turning the land over to the city began.

MassDevelopment, a quasi-public agency, was chosen to market the land for commercial and residential use. One by one, the buildings were razed. In their place, a range of housing has been built. Defense contractor Kollmorgen, now called L3-KEO, moved its headquarters from King Street onto the former hospital campus and now occupies the lion’s share of the commercial and industrial space.

Even the name of the hill was changed by developers, who thought Village Hill would be more attractive than Hospital Hill. All that remains are the fountain, the reported graves and a bunch of artifacts that MassDevelopment turned over to the city. These include a urinal, an old clock, a cupola, auditorium chairs, window bars, doors and some game tables.

“It’s like they grabbed everything they possibly could,” said Sarah LaValley, a Planning Department staff member who serves as liaison to the Historical Commission. “We ended up with what could be salvaged.”

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