Historic Asylums


Danvers State Hospital


This site cannot be easily seen at this
time. Putnam Lane to the southwest
and the industrial park to the south-
east offer partial, very distant views.
Do NOT trespass:
security on this now privately-owned site
is taken very seriously. Taking a trip
to see DSH is not recommended: there
is too little to see.
Click here for map.







In Brief:
  • Location: Hathorne Hill in Danvers, Massachusetts (north of Boston). Click here for a map.
  • Other Names: Danvers Lunatic Asylum, Danvers State Insane Asylum, abbreviations DSIA and DSH
  • Architecture: Designed by Nathaniel Bradlee in the Victorian Gothic style. The floor plan was inspired by the recommendations in the "Kirkbride Plan" (Thomas Story Kirkbride, M.D., L.L.D.)
  • Population: Originally constructed to hold 450 residents. Housed well over 2,000 at times.
  • Years of Operation: Established 1874. Opened 1878, closed 1992
  • Current Status: Owned by the development company AvalonBay. Most historic resources are being demolished at this time. The grounds will become a housing complex.
  • Other: The town of Danvers was formerly known as Salem Village (the actual location of the 1692 Salem witch trials). Witch-trials Judge Jonathan Hathorne lived in a house atop Hathorne Hill. The complex of abandoned buildings was featured in the 2001 film "Session 9" starring David Caruso of "NYPD Blue" and "CSI:Miami".
    Preservation Alert, Mid-April 2006:
    Demolition is well under way at the Danvers complex. Many buildings are already gone, as well as parts of the Kirkbride building. The plan by the developer Avalon Bay is to leave only the center tower of the Kirkbride, and the wings leading immediately off to the sides of it. Please visit Danvers State Insane Asylum for updates and a site map.
    Prior to commencement of demolition in 2006, the site included:
  • Kirkbride Complex: 313,000 sf complex of 17 buildings erected between 1874-1878.
  • Administration: 23,600 sf dormitory building constructed in 1928.
  • Bonner Building: 100,000 sf medical building constructed in 1955.
  • Cottages: Several cottages built between 1850-1932.
  • Support/Other: Maintenance, storage, and former farming structures.

    There are many web sites concerning this place. Some of the notable ones are:

  • Danvers State Insane Asylum
  • The Castle on the Hill, "Michael Ramseur's historical and artistic overview of Danvers State Mental Hospital."
  • Kirkbride Buildings.com - Danvers Page
  • Danvers State Hospital (Noblenet)
  • the Danvers State Memorial Committee (DSMC) (working to do something about the neglected and anonymous graves on the grounds). You can also visit the Essex County Rootsweb page
  • Are you interested in patient records? Please visit the DMSC in the above listing, participate in the Rootsweb sanitarium/asylum discussion list.

    Excerpted from "A Visit to Danvers State Hospital"

    by Joseph Morales, from A Short History of Lovecraftian New England, by permission.

    As you emerge from the trees you get a distant view of a huge, sprawling brick building, surrounded by tall dead grass. Closer inspection and circumambulation reveals a venerable and somewhat menacing ivy-covered structure with long, iron-barred windows and many pointed towers and peaked gables. As I wandered around, the insects in the grass kept up a long continuous chorus like the droning in a madman's skull.

    On the way out, I had some difficulty locating the entrance to the path again, as it is partly obscured by the trees. The famous refrain kept running through my mind-

    You can check out any time you like,
    But you can never leave . . .


    Photo credit for recent color photos on this page (or linked below): Massachusetts Film Office, by permission.

    More Images

  • Close-up of windows with bars, by Joseph Morales
  • Historic Drawing
  • Aerial Photo
  • Photo of Small Building
  • Kirkbride Building Photo
  • Photo
  • Center of Kirkbride Building Photo

    Images from Historic Postcards (Click on them to see larger views):


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