Danvers State Hospital was a psychiatric hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts, USA and opened in 1878 at a cost of $1.5 million. Danvers had previously been called Salem Village and was the site of the famous Salem Witch Trials of 1690, the name having been changed to distance itself from the events of the past.
The facility was designed by Boston architect Nathaniel Jeremiah Bradlee under the Kirkbride Plan. Other such mental health facilities included Trenton State Hospital in New Jersey and the Metropolitan State Hospital in Massachusetts. It was spread out over a large rural area and originally had two main buildings. The largest one contained a number of wings which housed the patients – males on the west side and females on the east. The most extreme patients were housed at the end of the wings. Originally designed to house 500 patients, over 2000 ended up there at its peak. At this time, the facility was extremely overcrowded with the attic and basement even being used to accommodate patients.
Expansion of the facility occurred over time and included a gymnasium and solarium. The buildings were joined by a number of underground tunnels and a power generating plant was located on site meaning the facility could be self-contained. The generator is still in operation to this day. The tunnels radiated in a spoke-like design from an area known as the hub. A research laboratory was opened in 1895 and rumours of inhumane experimentation on patients are still rife to this day.
The increase in use of medication to treat psychiatric patients meant that the number of people housed in Danvers State Hospital began to decrease and the first wards were closed in 1969. Budgets continued to be cut and by 1992, the entire hospital was shut down and left abandoned. It was eventually demolished in 2006 to make way for apartments, despite some public objection to the demolition of what some deemed to be buildings of historic importance. The outer shell of some of the old structures were retained as part of the new apartment complex. A huge fire broke under mysterious circumstances while the apartment complex was under construction in 2007, although many suspected arson.
Danvers State Hospital was the inspiration for the infamous Arkham sanatorium from H.P. Lovecraft’s short horror story “The Thing on the Doorstep”. This in turn inspired the creation of Arkham Asylum in DC’s Batman comics.