On January 12, 1833, the first public asylum for the insane in Massachusetts was opened in the scenic hills of Worcester. It was called the Bloomingdale Asylum, and by the latter half of the 19th century, it was already overcrowded beyond capacity. Funds were appropriated to construct a larger and more grandiose hospital called the Worcester Insane Asylum in the same vicinity.
Construction on the Kirkbride-plan hospital began in 1870 and was completed seven years later. Designed by architect Ward P. Delano of the firm Fuller & Delano of Worcester, the flagstone and brick building stood four stories tall, and between the 500 foot wings stood a beautiful clock tower, poised above the central administration building. On an interesting note, renowned psychiatrist Sigmund Freud visited the hospital in 1909 during his only trip to America.
A massive fire engulfed the Kirkbride building on July 22, 1991, destroying almost all of the roof and floors, save for the right most wing and the administration building. The burned out shells of the other areas were bulldozed and the extra stone was used to seal up the gaping holes left by the connections to the remaining sections.
The hospital still functions as a psychiatric facility in a large, newer building near the Kirkbride building, which now threatens to close as well.
2008 Update: The wings of the Kirkbride building are being demolished, along with the two historic rotundas and employee residences. The only older structure that is to be saved seems to be the administration building and clock tower.
A book entitled A Century of Silence - Echoes from a Massachusetts Landscape (The Herodotus Press, ISBN: 9780952541417) details the life of an Irish emigrant family in 1900s America. It traces the events of the author Norman Mongan's granduncle, who was admitted to Worcester State Hospital on several occasions, then ultimately ending his life by hanging himself at the hospital in 1903. Transcripts from doctor's interviews were meticulously dug up by the author and included verbatim in the book.