Wrentham State School

Wrentham, Massachusetts
The Wrentham State School, opened in 1906, is a half abandoned campus in Wrentham, Massachusetts. It is one of the most haunted places.
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About This Location

Wrentham State School, nestled in the serene landscape of Wrentham, Massachusetts, offers a blend of somber history and haunting beauty. Known today as the Wrentham Developmental Center, this historic medical facility, sitting at the junction of Emerald and North Streets, has seen its share of history since its establishment in 1906. The school’s expansive campus, once home to over a thousand patients, is a testament to a bygone era of psychiatric and developmental disorder treatment.

This institution’s roots stretch back to the early 20th century when it was set up as the state’s second facility for “feeble-minded” children, following the Fernald School in Waltham. Originally sprawling across 450 acres, later expanded to over 700, the school was not only a medical facility but a community in itself. Early on, it adapted two farmhouses for use, while the main campus buildings were constructed to accommodate the increasing number of patients.

Throughout the 1920s, Wrentham State School expanded, adding patient wards, employee housing, and school facilities, along with agricultural buildings to support the farm work engaged in by some patients. Post-World War II, the patient population swelled to around 2,000, significantly over its intended capacity. The 1950s saw more expansion, but by 1965 the school reached its peak with 2,163 patients.

However, the latter part of the 20th century marked a shift in the treatment of developmentally disabled individuals. Legal action in 1975 forced a move away from institutional treatment, leading to a significant reduction in the school’s population. By 1989, the patient count had dropped to 628, with the state repurposing or abandoning many of the campus buildings.

This site’s dark history is not without its shadows. Stories of abuse, unethical experiments, and the untimely deaths of many children buried in the neighboring cemetery paint a grim picture of the past. These stories, coupled with the lack of funding and scientific understanding of patient treatment, contribute to the eerie ambiance that pervades the abandoned half of the campus.

Today, as of 2023, visitors can explore the grounds of the Wrentham State School, with about half of the campus still in use and the other half standing abandoned. The William A. Rice Recreation Area, located off Emerald Street across from the old state school, provides free and ample parking for those wishing to walk around the campus. However, entry into the abandoned buildings is prohibited.

Wrentham State School, with its mix of haunting tales and historical significance, offers a poignant reminder of the evolving understanding of mental health and the treatment of the developmentally disabled. It stands as a place where the past’s echoes can still be felt, offering a unique and reflective experience for visitors.

The campus of the Wrentham State School was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 21, 1994. It was assigned reference number 93001490.


Address: 131 Emerald Street, Wrentham, Massachusetts
Place GPS Coordinates: 42.081250, -71.323028
Parking GPS Coordinates: 42.081250, -71.323028
Parking Notes: Visitors can park at the William A. Rice Recreation Area which is located right off Emerald Street across from the old state school. Parking is free and ample.

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