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Taunton State Hospital (Taunton, MA) | wish you were here

Wish You Were Here | Abandoned America
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Taunton State Hospital was built in the early 1850's,
based on Thomas Kirkbride's popular new plan for institutions.
The architecture was rare and in many ways wondrous -
with its cupolas, the cast-iron capitals, and most of all the
enclosed elevated walkways that connected the central building
with the infirmaries built in the 1890's...
It was something awe-inspiring to behold.
The site was picked from several competing locations
because of the beauty of the surroundings;
it is hard now to imagine Taunton State Hospital as what it once was.

A self-contained city for the mentally ill,
over time Taunton's population of patients soared,
as did the following inevitable neglect and abuse.
Eventually the tide turned and institutionalization fell out of fashion
the population dwindled and many of the buildings fell into
such a state of disrepair that they were closed in the 1970's.
The grounds are still active and some buildings remain open, including
forensic psychiatric units for the criminally insane and violent youth offenders -
the latter of which started a riot in 2007 that required police intervention,
which, as you will know if you have worked in such a setting,
means that the situation had progressed to a point
where it was far, far beyond anyone's control.
Other than those few buildings, Taunton is an unmarked grave
in which lies buried the evidence of crimes committed by medicine and science,
by our government, by our society, by our families and communities.
In many ways, it is damning evidence incriminating human nature itself.

Perching high up on the old infirmary's roofs at sunrise and
trying to balance myself on the steep, crumbling slate,
it is amazing to witness that something once so ornate, so filled with hope
disintegrated into the mess of rubble and debris behind me -
where once there was a great ornamental dome, a magnificent auditorium,
an administrative hub that was this mighty beast's nerve center
now there is only the whisper of what once was, what could have been.
It is a beautiful morning to be at such a vantage point,
even if it is atop the decaying remains of a dream gone horribly wrong.
If you were able to look across it all, you'd feel it in your very bones and blood -
the weight of its history, the many things it represented to so many people.
Maybe if you could just see it, you'd understand.

Wish you were here.

Image of Taunton State Hospital and text by Matthew Christopher

If you enjoy my writing, check out my books "Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream" (which features a chapter on Taunton) and "Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences".

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Photo comment By Stephanie: So sad that I miss this one.