Metropolitan State Hospital
Located in Waltham, MA
Photo © 2004 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Metropolitan State Hospital History
A growing need for an additional state hospital for the city of Boston was first voiced at the turn of the 20th century, yet the state did not allocate the resources to build a second metropolitan psychiatric institution until 1927. The cornerstone for Metropolitan State Hospital was laid down in 1927 in a newly purchased tract of land that spanned the towns of Waltham, Lexington, and Belmont. Most buildings are Colonial style, with red-brick facades and white trim. The campus consisted of an administration building, medical-surgical facility, acute and chronic care buildings, staff housing, morgue and power plant. The largest was the chronic care building, called the continued treatment group (CTG); it was laid out as a basic rectangle with wings protruding from the outside on the outer edges and the inside formed an outdoor courtyard. A psychiatric hospital for children and adolescents was built on the property called the Gaebler Center, named after the second superintendent of MSH. Met State first opened with the capacity of just over 1,000 patients, but was already housing about 100 over the maximum only two years after opening.
In 1978, a patient named Melvin Wilson murdered co-patient Anne Marie Davee, dismembered her body, and buried her in several shallow graves on the grounds of Met State. Wilson kept seven of Ms Davee's teeth in his possession which was found on him by staff, and pieces of Wilson's clothing and the presumed murder weapon (a hatchet) were also found two months after Davee's disappearance. Despite these disturbing discoveries, an investigation was not made until 19 reports of negligence by state mental health workers were looked into along with this case almost two years after Davee had been missing. On August 12, 1980, Wilson led investigators to the graves, and was taken to Bridgewater State Hospital (a secure forensic hospital).
The hospital closed in January 1992, and left a maze of rotting wards and tunnels behind. Since MSH shares land in three separate towns, one plans to build low income housing, another envisions a nine hole golf course, and the other will leave the property as open space. A cemetery exists on campus, containing 480 anonymous markers, and possibly many more that have sunken beneath the ground.
The movie "A Civil Action," starring John Travolta, featured the grounds of the hospital. The film dramatized the story of the real-life civil action suit of eight Woburn, Massachusetts families who charged two large corporations with contaminating local drinking water, leading to the deaths of their children by leukemia. The hospital grounds were used to film the dumping site.
Just about all of the buildings at Metropolitan State Hospital have been demolished to make way for new condos in 2006-2007. This community located on the former Met State campus is called Avalon at Lexington Hills, an AvalonBay community. AvalonBay has also converted the former Danvers State Hospital campus into a similar community.