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The NSH was located just off Smith campus, near the athletic field. A chain-link fence gate was half-heartedly held closed with a loose chain and orange security tape. A narrow opening had been pushed open long ago by either track runners or locals who wanted to use the cross country trails.
As you approached the hospital grounds, you could see power lines through the leaf canopy and many of these "No trespassing" signs, which local residents and Smith students alike cheerfully ignored.
Your first view of the mental hospital- "Old Main". At one point, the area on each side of the road was evenly clipped lawn. By this point it was overgrown with grass, wild strawberry and blackberry bushes, random other plants, and poison ivy patches.
The front of Old Main. I attended a concert here in November of 2000: a local artist rigged the inside of this building and a couple others nearby with over 100 speakers to play Bach's Magnificat as a tribute to all those who lived here at one time or another. It truly sounded as if the building was singing.
The portico of Old Main collapsed on July 2, 2002.
Some buildings just to the right of Old Main. The lawn in front of the building was choked with knee-high weeds. Despite the number of people that passed through here to sightsee and play, a surprising amount of the glass in the windows was intact. The rest were broken or missing, either from vandals or the weather.
Close-up of the windows. Because Old Main was the administrative center of the hospital, its windows did not have iron bars over them. This building also was the only one that was so overgrown with vines. On the left side of Old Main, I noticed that the vines had been recently trimmed and the cuttings were piled at the base of the building. I'm surprised the state went to the trouble.
The left side of Old Main.
Here the bars over the windows were easy to see. Rather than screened porches, these had chain-link fencing. The vines had only just begun to encroach on the far left.
A courtyard. It must've been fairly pleasant when it was well maintained- a small park area, grassy and shaded. Perhaps there were benches at one time. At the far left of the photo, you can see that some of the windows still had curtains in them.
The far left corner of the courtyard and the windows with curtains. (At least, I'm fairly sure they were curtains. While some of the windows were simply boarded up or left as they were, a few looked as though they had been blocked with whatever material was available- a mattress, asbestos insulation, and other unidentified objects.)
Unusual window both in shape and in the fact that it's not barred. I wonder what it led into- perhaps a meeting hall, chapel, or the theatre. There was a sign on the door at the bottom of the photo. All the major doors were labelled in this way. The letter designates the building; I saw up to U or V. The direction that the door faces is on there, and the I guess they numbered the doors of each building. These signs looked fairly recent, so that would explain why the letters only go up to U, even though there were many more buildings that that. The signs might have been added after the hospital began to lose patients and the facilities were most likely streamlined to only the essential buildings.
The hospital included a sprawling complex of buildings to maintain the population of patients, staff, and even families. Here was a store house. Across the path from it was a loading dock for supplies, possibly for the cafeteria.
You could still read instructions on several of the buildings, for the workers and delivery trucks.
I'm not sure why a mental hospital would need a paint shop. Perhaps it was part of a grounds-and-maintenance shop. This was one of only two buildings I saw that had graffiti on it. Unusual, considering it was prime grounds for vandals.
I can only guess at what some of these other buildings were. They could have been schools, therapy centers, administrative buildings, etc etc.
This one had "stage" spray painted above it. One of the websites in the links section mentions and has pictures of an auditorium. Maybe it was in here. I didn't go into any of the buildings since it was hot that day, and some of the buildings had been condemned due to age and water damage.
This was the only bridge or catwalk that I found connecting two buildings. This was directly across the road from the building marked "stage". A similar shot is featured in one of the newspaper articles that I've linked to. The wood was beginning to rot.
This was the last major section that I explored. It appeared to be a barn with stables.
This was the front end of the barn that you can see in the previous picture. When I saw the bike there, I assumed it belonged to someone nearby, since I saw several fellow gawkers while I was taking pictures. Then I looked at the bike a little more carefully, and saw that both tires were deflated, the chains were rusty, and the rubber on the grips of the handlebars was blistered. I wonder how long it had been there.
Unfortunately, this photo doesn't show the interior very well, but the vehicles from left to right were a snowplow, a minibus, and a tractor. Inside there were lots of miscellaneous rusty tools and spare parts, and lots of hay. I kept hearing rustling noises in the hay, probably from small animals.
Around the corner from the stables (just out of view of the overlook photo) was this garage. I saw that some of the lights were still on. This puzzled me- wouldn't they have shut off the power to this place a long time ago? I walked over to the windows and peeked in, expecting to find maybe derelict fire equipment. Instead, I found brand new cars of recent make (I'd guess within the past 2 or 3 years), with current MA license plates marked "official". I didn't get a chance to look any further because at that moment a car drove up that I'd noticed earlier. Since locals and tourists alike drove through the grounds just for fun, I hadn't paid much attention to it. Now I saw the driver's side door had a private security company's logo on it. A middle-aged woman politely informed me that I was not allowed to take pictures here. I didn't object; I just put the camera away and walked back to the path. Once she was satisfied and had driven off, I took it out again. I didn't bother going back to the garage- if she caught me there once, she'd probably swing back around again to make sure I had left. So, I just continued down the road, looping my way back towards Old Main.
The coke machine just struck me funny. The labels on all the oversized buttons were faded but still legible. No price listed anywhere- probably a quarter. Tons of cobwebs in the dispenser. Real wood panelling that looks like it had been cut into with something.
In a couple places along the way, there were arrows marked "TUNNEL". The buildings of the hospital were once connected by an extensive network of these tunnels. I wonder if any of them were still intact.
Passing in front of Old Main again, I headed back to campus. On the way out, I passed what looked like a parking lot. All of the pavement, where there was any left, looks like this- cracked, bleached, with tufts of grass and lines of anthills poking through. Many of the minor roads and paths were just mud by this time.
A couple of rusty basketball hoops without nets. The court still was mostly pavement, but the weeds were encroaching. It didn't show up well (at all, actually) in this photo, but to the left of the basketball hoops there was one of those chain-link protective barriers that they put up behind the home plate of a baseball diamond. It, too, was rusty and had collapsed in on itself. All traces of the baseball diamond were lost under the vegetation.
One last view as you're heading out. Some friends and I went berry picking just to the right of this photo; huge wild black raspberry bushes. A cop car went by once, and all he said was words to the effect of "look, kids, I don't care if you pick berries, just keep your backpacks out of the road". So any stories you hear that depict this place as some heavily-guarded fortress are just urban legend.
I visited the grounds sometime in the summer of 2002. I had graduated from Smith but was still living in the area. Little had changed since the first time I'd been there around Halloween nightin 1997. (It was a tradition in my dorm to bring the freshman up to the mental hospital grounds on or around that night just to spook them.) One difference I noticed was that many of the buildings had yellow & black warning signs: "Unstable structure" and "Warning! Asbestos". Some of them also had signs that were a silver background with either a X or a / on it. I've since been told by a visitor to this site that those signs were for the firemen. An X means the building is not structurally sound and they should not enter it if it catches on fire- there's a high risk that the building would collapse. The / means that there is a good chance that the building might collapse, so the firemen should only enter it if they absolutely had to.
The mental hospital complex was torn down sometime around 2009. It has since been replaced with a privately-owned housing complex that roughly imitates Old Main's style. I was in Northampton for a friend's wedding in the fall and decided to pay the hospital a visit. Only a couple of the outlying buildings remained at that point. The new housing was completed, but the landscaping was still being finished. I would imagine all traces of the old mental hospital complex are gone by now.Links