Monson, Massachusetts

The Monson Developmental Center is a fascinating abandoned and historic campus located in Monson, Massachusetts. The center operated from 1852 to 2012.

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Tom Riley (GoXplr Account)

About This Location

The Monson Developmental Center is a fascinating abandoned and historic campus located in Monson, Massachusetts. This center was established in 1852 and went through a number of redevelopments. It was eventually abandoned in 2012 when demand for the center’s services fell.


This center was established in 1852 when the state of Massachusetts sought to provide better care for the poor. After securing 175 acres of land in northern Monson, the state built what is known as an almshouse, also known as a bede-house or poorhouse. Prior to the construction of almshouses in Massachusetts, each town was responsible for caring for the impoverished among them. The State Almshouse at Monson would allow poor people from all over the region to receive care. Along with the almshouse in Monson, two others were constructed in the state of Massachusetts including in the towns of Bridgewater and Tewksbury. These almshouses were the first attempts by the state to care for the poor.

From Almshouse to State School

After over a decade of serving as the State Almshouse at Monson, change occurred in 1866. It was redeveloped to become the State Primary School which would focus on helping impoverished children. The State Primary School provided much needed lodging, instruction, and employment for neglected and poor children in the area who were under 16 years old. Additionally, some young people with juvenile backgrounds received treatment at the school. One interesting aspect of the programming was that school inspectors would place some of the minors at the school with families where they would often be indentured. An indenture document or official agreement was created between the inspectors/trustees and the individual agreeing to house, teach, and board the inmate until the age of eighteen if indenture or a similar placement on a term basis was agreed upon. (It should be noted that almshouses continued to grow in popularity and in 1884, it was reported that there were over 220 almshouses throughout the state of Massachusetts.)

Becoming the Massachusetts Hospital for Epileptics

In the mid 1890s, the school was once again redesignated. From 1895 to 1909, the campus served as the Massachusetts Hospital for Epileptics. In 1909, the name of the hospital changed to be the Monson State School and it continued serving people with epilepsy. It was during the first half of the 20th century that the hospital grew substantially. Over 500 more acres were added to the property and the number of buildings grew to 76. It essentially operated as its own little city complete with a water tower, power plant, and security. The population of the school peaked at 1,700 in 1968.

Awarded by the National Register of Historic Places

In 1974, the campus of the Monson Developmental Center was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The official list of our nation’s historic districts, sites, buildings, and other items deserving of preservation is the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service is in charge of it; it was created as a result of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. More than 90,000 properties are honored on the National Register for their contributions to American history, culture, engineering, and the arts. The campus in Monson features beautiful buildings which include the styles of colonial revival, classical revival, and craftsman. The NRHP reference number for the center is 93001483.


By the turn of the millennium, the population of the Monson Developmental Center was dwindling thanks to the creation of new, more advanced treatments. In 2008, the state announced that the facility would be closing. Right before closing, there were about 140 extremely disabled patients and just over 400 employees. After announcing the immediate closing, the operations began winding down at the center. Any remaining patients were transferred to six state-operated group homes in the surrounding area.

Nearly all of the buildings at the Monson Developmental Center were boarded up by 2012. It was officially closed in 2012 because there was officially no budget set aside for the facility for 2013 and onward. By abandoning the campus, it was projected that the state would save $40 to $42 million in operating costs over four years. This was a wise economic decision, but it did cause some questioning.

Status of the abandoned campus

Although closing the campus surely saved a lot of money in regards to operating costs, there were still many questions and concerns from townspeople. At the top of many minds was a question regarding the security of the old state school. Every door and window were required to be locked up and covered. Additionally, oversight was needed in case of break ins. This would cause the local Police Department to have extra work to do. Another big concern was the potential ecological disaster that could occur from the buildings considering they are filled with toxic asbestos and lead paint. The final concern was that nothing would ever happen to the campus and it would simply become a large plot of buildings in disrepair.

To deal with the security issue, many “no trespassing” signs were added to the property, a security guard was hired, and police watch over the property. Some of the abandoned buildings have been demolished and a few dozen remain standing. About 200 acres of the campus was also turned into conservation land.

The town of Monson and the state have been requesting proposals for the abandoned campus since it was closed. Locals have suggested a variety of uses including a community college, a local public safety station, a solar farm, center for teens, or a mall. No master plan has been accepted so far. It is unknown if any developers have made any proposals so far.

Many of the former state hospitals in Massachusetts have had their buildings razed and apartments put up such as the Medfield State Hospital and Westborough State Hospital. But since the Monson Development Center is on the National Register of Historic Places, this may require some of the buildings to remain standing. This could be a similar situation to the Medfield State Hospital where the buildings remain standing due to it being listed as historic.

The future of this old state hospital is unknown. It is a truly fascinating complex in Hampden County, Massachusetts, just off the Mass Pike.

REMINDER: Do not attempt to enter any buildings on the campus and do not step on property grounds. If you want to see the center, just admire it from the road. Police and security are always active and trespassers will be prosecuted. Many people have been arrested trying to get into buildings here.

Looking for more cool abandoned locations in Massachusetts? Check out our blog post covering the best abandoned spots in MA to explore!

Location Features

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State Hospital Road, Monson, Massachusetts

GPS Coordinates:
42.144422, -72.326014
Directions to location:
Click here for location directions
Directions to parking area:
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Parking Notes:
No dedicated parking area, since visitors are not allowed. But, if visitors can walk along Upper Palmer Road on the border of the hospital. Parking can be found at the Evergreen Cemetery just off the road.


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