Cows at Grafton State Hospital, 1921
Cows at Grafton State Hospital, November 1921. Historic photograph, courtesy of J. Chilton.

AGRICULTURE AND MANUFACTURE AT GRAFTON STATE HOSPITAL From its beginning in 1901, the institution was intended to be self-sufficient. Patients and staff accomplished much of the initial construction, building crushed stone roads, laying water and sewer pipes, and constructing the simpler wood-frame buildings. At the same time, the farm was put in operation. In 1905 it was reported that Grafton was already supplying the hospital at Worcester with milk. A new cow barn was under construction in 1906 to expand the dairy operation centered at the Oaks colony. Each year, lands that had long been fallow were actively reclaimed through cultivation and reseeding. Purchase of young fruit trees was recommended in 1905. An extensive poultry plant and a large piggery were in place by 1912. Female patients worked in the flower and vegetable gardens.

Grafton State Hospital: draft teams
Draft teams at Grafton State Hospital. Historic photograph courtesy of Joel Keith.

In 1908 a severe drought exacerbated continuing water supply problems, and funds were requested to purchase additional land to provide a proper source. The following year, 113 acres were acquired, wells were driven, and pipes laid to connect them to the existing system. This solution quickly proved inadequate to supply the 150,000 gallons of water that the institution used daily. Thus it was recommended that the state purchase "a certain tract of land consisting of 14 acres, suitably situated, and at a sufficient height to give a proper head, a reservoir holding 2,000,000 or more gallons can be constructed. To drive additional wells, lay pipe, and construct such a reservoir an appropriation of $16,000 is therefore asked."(Annual Report, 1912) The reservoir was completed in 1914.

Massachusetts Institutions, at the 1929 Agricultural Show
Participation in the 1929 Agricultural Show, detail below. Historic photograph courtesy of J. Chilton.

Massachusetts Institutions, the greatest producer of farm products in the Commonwealth, 1929

By 1945 the institution had grown to 1,200 acres. With the tremendous amount of acreage, "more than sufficient poultry, eggs, hogs, milk, and vegetables are produced in this institution for its own needs, and the surplus is distributed among other institutions at a great savings to the Commonwealth." (Governor & Council Report of 1945) In the same report it was noted, however, that "there is little or no occupational therapy in effect now. Farming, canning, and general maintenance are the institution's principal occupations."

Grafton State Hospital: Weaving Shop
The weaving shop at Grafton State Hospital. Historic photograph courtesy of J. Chilton.

Source of historical information: assembled from various texts of the National Register of Historic Preservation Registration Form, 1993.


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