In My Footsteps
Trip 117: Medfield, Massachusetts
March 30, 2011
Never had I been so excited and so scared to visit a place as I was when I visited Medfield. No, there is nothing scary about Medfield itself, it is a beautiful town about twenty-five miles southwest of Boston. It was getting to step foot on the grounds of an abandoned mental hospital that made this trip different from any I had taken before.
Originally part of Dedham, the town of Medfield was particularly ravaged during King Philip’s War during 1675. Half of the town was burned to the ground by the Native Americans. The first spot I visited, the Peak House, was burned to the ground and rebuilt shortly thereafter. Rebuilt in 1680 the small home on Main Street has a very high pitched steep roof which makes it look different than the average house. It is said that the house has the steepest roof on record for a 17th century house in Massachusetts.
Taking a break from the historic homes of Medfield I ventured to a secluded hiking area called the Noon Hill Reservation. I parked on the similarly named Noonhill Road and hiked the trail that led to the summit of Noon Hill. The reservation itself is 204 acres which would take a lot of time to see, but the trail up to the summit of the 370-foot Noon Hill will give you a great idea of what the area is all about. There are some clearing areas at the top which allow you to see neighboring Walpole, Norfolk, and even Great Blue Hill. It is definitely a worthwhile hike.
Returning to the historic areas of Medfield I went to check out the Dwight-Derby House on Frairy Street. Built in 1651 the house is one of the ten oldest homes in America. As if that wasn’t enough if you simply turn around there is an amazing scene. Sitting just on the other side of Meetinghouse Pond is the First Unitarian Church built in 1789. When the weather is right there is a near perfect reflection of the church in the pond’s peaceful waters. The weather was right on this day which is why I am mentioning it.
Despite all of the other wonderful spots to check out in Medfield there was one that I was excited to see well before my arrival and that was the abandoned Medfield State Hospital on Hospital Road. Built in 1892 the hospital was for the clinically insane, a mental hospital. At its peak there were fifty-eight buildings on 900 acres housing a maximum of 2,200 patients.
|Part of the 'neighborhood' of buildings at Medfield State Hospital.|
The property was closed down in 2003 but recently reopened to the public; it has even been used for movies like Shutter Island. I knew upon arrival that this was going to be different than almost any place I had seen thus far and it was. I parked in an abandoned field across the street and approached the guard shack. The guard let me in and I was soon on my way into another world.
This ‘hospital’ was more like an abandoned neighborhood, there were so many buildings, red brick with red plywood over most of the windows. The blood red color only made the long walk from the guard shack to the neighborhood of abandoned buildings more eerie. There were hardly any sounds, no birds, no animals foraging around, really creepy. I also noticed signs with red ‘X’s’ on some and single slashes on others. I can only assume that this is marking which buildings are to be torn down and which are to remain standing.
|The creepy 'crying' windows at Medfield State Hospital.|
It was easy for me to get lost in thinking of what the place was like when it was active having seen so many clichéd horror movies dealing with mental hospitals. It was only made creepier by the other security guard slowly patrolling around the grounds in his car. There were things about the Medfield State Hospital that were odd and added to the experience. Once such thing was the trails of white paint running underneath many windows of the buildings, it made it seem like the windows were crying which was really unsettling.
It may be a little unnerving to walk the grounds of the Medfield State Hospital but I would recommend it to anybody who likes a little bit of terror with their travels. If not there are plenty of other awesome places to check out like Noon Hill and the historic Peak and Dwight-Derby Houses. Medfield was a great spot for me and I think it has something for everybody’s tastes. Have fun and happy traveling!
For more In My Footsteps items follow my Twitter Feed, view more photos at the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at ChristopherSetterlund.com. Thanks for reading!
Directions: Noon Hill Reservation: From Rt. 3 take exit 20A to merge onto I-93 S, continue onto Rt. 1 S, continue onto I-95 N. Take exit 16B for Rt. 109 W., follow 7.6 mi., turn left onto South St., turn left onto Rt. 27 S., take 1st right onto South St., take 3rd right onto Noonhill Rd., parking area is on the left.
Medfield State Hospital: From Rt. 3 take exit 20A to merge onto I-93 S, continue onto Rt. 1 S, continue onto I-95 N. Take exit 16B for Rt. 109 W., follow 7.7 mi., turn right onto North St., take a slight left onto Harding St., slight left onto Hospital Rd. Main entrance to hospital grounds is .7 mi. up on right. I parked across the street when I visited.
References: Medfield, Ma. - Official Town Site