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Northampton State Hospital project aims to commemorate those who lived, worked there (with timeline)

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Jackie Duda and Hank Ross, both of Northampton, visit the site of the fountain that stood in front of Old Main at the former Northampton State Hospital off Rocky Hill Road (Rt. 66). The base of the fountain, a granite ring about 20 feet in diameter, is located near the corner of Olander Drive and Ford Crossing in the Village Hill neighborhood. Ross owns an iron lion's head which will become part of the fountain again.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Jackie Duda and Hank Ross, both of Northampton, visit the site of the fountain that stood in front of Old Main at the former Northampton State Hospital off Rocky Hill Road (Rt. 66). The base of the fountain, a granite ring about 20 feet in diameter, is located near the corner of Olander Drive and Ford Crossing in the Village Hill neighborhood. Ross owns an iron lion's head which will become part of the fountain again. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Hank Ross owns this cast iron lion's head which will become part of the former Northampton State Hospital fountain again.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Hank Ross owns this cast iron lion's head which will become part of the former Northampton State Hospital fountain again. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>The granite edge encircling the bottom pool of the former Northampton State Hospital fountain, about 18 feet in diameter, is visible near the corner of Olander Drive and Ford Crossing in the Village Hill neighborhood.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    The granite edge encircling the bottom pool of the former Northampton State Hospital fountain, about 18 feet in diameter, is visible near the corner of Olander Drive and Ford Crossing in the Village Hill neighborhood. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Hank Ross owns this cast iron lion's head which will become part of the former Northampton State Hospital fountain again.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Hank Ross owns this cast iron lion's head which will become part of the former Northampton State Hospital fountain again. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Jackie Duda and Hank Ross, both of Northampton, visit the site of the fountain that stood in front of Old Main at the former Northampton State Hospital off Rocky Hill Road (Rt. 66). The bottom pool of the fountain, evidenced by this granite ring about 18 feet in diameter, is mostly obscured by brush near the corner of Olander Drive and Ford Crossing in the Village Hill neighborhood.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Jackie Duda and Hank Ross, both of Northampton, visit the site of the fountain that stood in front of Old Main at the former Northampton State Hospital off Rocky Hill Road (Rt. 66). The bottom pool of the fountain, evidenced by this granite ring about 18 feet in diameter, is mostly obscured by brush near the corner of Olander Drive and Ford Crossing in the Village Hill neighborhood. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Barbara Zinkin Miller speaks to Smith College first-year students about her experience working at the Northampton State Hospital.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Barbara Zinkin Miller speaks to Smith College first-year students about her experience working at the Northampton State Hospital. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Gila Kornfeld-Jacobs, left, and Barbara Zinkin Miller spoke to a Smith College first-year seminar about the NSH taught by associate professor of economics Thomas Riddel. Kornfeld-Jacobs' late husband, Irving Jacobs, was superintendent of the NSH from 1974 to 1978. Miller worked at the hospital.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Gila Kornfeld-Jacobs, left, and Barbara Zinkin Miller spoke to a Smith College first-year seminar about the NSH taught by associate professor of economics Thomas Riddel. Kornfeld-Jacobs' late husband, Irving Jacobs, was superintendent of the NSH from 1974 to 1978. Miller worked at the hospital. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Smith College professor emeritus Thomas Riddell leads a first-year seminar called "The Evolution and Transformation of the Northampton State Hospital."

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Smith College professor emeritus Thomas Riddell leads a first-year seminar called "The Evolution and Transformation of the Northampton State Hospital." Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Smith College associate professor of economics Thomas Riddell, top center, introduces three guest speakers to a first-year seminar, "The Evolution and Transformation of the Northampton State Hospital".

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Smith College associate professor of economics Thomas Riddell, top center, introduces three guest speakers to a first-year seminar, "The Evolution and Transformation of the Northampton State Hospital". Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Joe Blumenthal hoists a decorative cast iron leaf or petal on a visit to the Northampton Department of Public Works vault with director Ned Huntley, left, where some parts from the former Northampton State Hospital fountain have been stored for safekeeping.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Joe Blumenthal hoists a decorative cast iron leaf or petal on a visit to the Northampton Department of Public Works vault with director Ned Huntley, left, where some parts from the former Northampton State Hospital fountain have been stored for safekeeping. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Northampton Department of Public Works director Ned Huntley holds a decorative cast iron leaf or petal that was once part of the fountain at the former Northampton State Hospital.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Northampton Department of Public Works director Ned Huntley holds a decorative cast iron leaf or petal that was once part of the fountain at the former Northampton State Hospital. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Each oval on the hexagonal base of the former Northampton State Hospital fountain once featured a lion's head with flowing water.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Each oval on the hexagonal base of the former Northampton State Hospital fountain once featured a lion's head with flowing water. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>The hexagonal base of the former Northampton State Hospital fountain is being stored at the Northampton Department of Public Works. The oval indentations once featured lions' heads with flowing water.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    The hexagonal base of the former Northampton State Hospital fountain is being stored at the Northampton Department of Public Works. The oval indentations once featured lions' heads with flowing water. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Joe Blumenthal sits with some of the larger parts from the former Northampton State Hospital fountain that are stored at the Northampton Department of Public Works.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Joe Blumenthal sits with some of the larger parts from the former Northampton State Hospital fountain that are stored at the Northampton Department of Public Works. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Joe Blumenthal hoists a decorative cast iron leaf on a visit to the Northampton Department of Public Works vault with director Ned Huntley, left, where some parts from the former Northampton State Hospital fountain have been stored for safekeeping.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Joe Blumenthal hoists a decorative cast iron leaf on a visit to the Northampton Department of Public Works vault with director Ned Huntley, left, where some parts from the former Northampton State Hospital fountain have been stored for safekeeping. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Northampton Department of Public Works director Ned Huntley holds a decorative cast iron leaf that was once part of the fountain at the former Northampton State Hospital.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Northampton Department of Public Works director Ned Huntley holds a decorative cast iron leaf that was once part of the fountain at the former Northampton State Hospital. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Photo courtesy Northampton Historical Society<br/>This fountain, built in 1876, long stood at the entrance to the former Northampton State Hospital's main building, and was a gathring spot for patients and staff.

    Photo courtesy Northampton Historical Society
    This fountain, built in 1876, long stood at the entrance to the former Northampton State Hospital's main building, and was a gathring spot for patients and staff. Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Jackie Duda and Hank Ross, both of Northampton, visit the site of the fountain that stood in front of Old Main at the former Northampton State Hospital off Rocky Hill Road (Rt. 66). The base of the fountain, a granite ring about 20 feet in diameter, is located near the corner of Olander Drive and Ford Crossing in the Village Hill neighborhood. Ross owns an iron lion's head which will become part of the fountain again.
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Hank Ross owns this cast iron lion's head which will become part of the former Northampton State Hospital fountain again.
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>The granite edge encircling the bottom pool of the former Northampton State Hospital fountain, about 18 feet in diameter, is visible near the corner of Olander Drive and Ford Crossing in the Village Hill neighborhood.
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Hank Ross owns this cast iron lion's head which will become part of the former Northampton State Hospital fountain again.
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Jackie Duda and Hank Ross, both of Northampton, visit the site of the fountain that stood in front of Old Main at the former Northampton State Hospital off Rocky Hill Road (Rt. 66). The bottom pool of the fountain, evidenced by this granite ring about 18 feet in diameter, is mostly obscured by brush near the corner of Olander Drive and Ford Crossing in the Village Hill neighborhood.
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Barbara Zinkin Miller speaks to Smith College first-year students about her experience working at the Northampton State Hospital.
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Gila Kornfeld-Jacobs, left, and Barbara Zinkin Miller spoke to a Smith College first-year seminar about the NSH taught by associate professor of economics Thomas Riddel. Kornfeld-Jacobs' late husband, Irving Jacobs, was superintendent of the NSH from 1974 to 1978. Miller worked at the hospital.
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Smith College professor emeritus Thomas Riddell leads a first-year seminar called "The Evolution and Transformation of the Northampton State Hospital."
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Smith College associate professor of economics Thomas Riddell, top center, introduces three guest speakers to a first-year seminar, "The Evolution and Transformation of the Northampton State Hospital".
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Joe Blumenthal hoists a decorative cast iron leaf or petal on a visit to the Northampton Department of Public Works vault with director Ned Huntley, left, where some parts from the former Northampton State Hospital fountain have been stored for safekeeping.
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Northampton Department of Public Works director Ned Huntley holds a decorative cast iron leaf or petal that was once part of the fountain at the former Northampton State Hospital.
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Each oval on the hexagonal base of the former Northampton State Hospital fountain once featured a lion's head with flowing water.
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>The hexagonal base of the former Northampton State Hospital fountain is being stored at the Northampton Department of Public Works. The oval indentations once featured lions' heads with flowing water.
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Joe Blumenthal sits with some of the larger parts from the former Northampton State Hospital fountain that are stored at the Northampton Department of Public Works.
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Joe Blumenthal hoists a decorative cast iron leaf on a visit to the Northampton Department of Public Works vault with director Ned Huntley, left, where some parts from the former Northampton State Hospital fountain have been stored for safekeeping.
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Northampton Department of Public Works director Ned Huntley holds a decorative cast iron leaf that was once part of the fountain at the former Northampton State Hospital.
  • Photo courtesy Northampton Historical Society<br/>This fountain, built in 1876, long stood at the entrance to the former Northampton State Hospital's main building, and was a gathring spot for patients and staff.

“People who have mental illness really are a very easily forgotten part of our society. So it’s not just about remembering this piece of Northampton history, but it’s about remembering a whole segment of the population,” said Joe Blumenthal, a member of the memorial committee and a neighborhood resident.

Blumenthal and others who serve on the state hospital’s memorial committee are determined that the population, and the place that so deeply impacted their lives, is remembered. They’ve settled on a monument from the hospital’s past that they believe will serve as a fitting tribute to patients and staff of the one-time sprawling, bustling hospital campus: the restoration of a large cast-iron fountain. First installed in 1876, the towering fountain long stood like a sentinel next to the entrance to Old Main, the original hospital building.

The project draws together people with ties to the hospital who live nearby, once worked there and are interested in public memorials. It includes a landscape architect and a couple dozen Smith College students. The committee hopes the public will return pieces of the fountain that may have taken as keepsakes over the years the hospital was being decommissioned and closed. (See related story.)

A cast iron lion’s head was returned to the committee this month by Hank Ross, a local real estate broker and longtime antiques dealer. Ross said he bought it years ago as part of an estate sale from a woman who said her father had been a painter at the hospital. Ross said he always had a feeling the fountain may be restored, so he kept the piece awaiting the day.

Since the hospital closed 20 years ago, the grounds have undergone massive change — with former hospital buildings torn down and upscale houses, affordable apartments and quarters for a variety of businesses built on the land.

Missing has been any connection to the history of the site. That will change when the memorial — a $145,000 project funded with $75,000 in Community Preservation Act dollars (the rest raised through private donations) is created.

“This land that Mass Development is developing is a gorgeous piece of real estate and it’s going to be a place where people make their homes and businesses,” said Blumenthal, who lives nearby at 39 Chapel St. and serves on the Citizens Advisory Council to the hospital project. “Nobody is going to give any thought at all about what happened before.”

He believes the memorial will go a long way toward helping people remember what happened before.

Moving the project from idea to reality has been a long haul. The committee has been working since 2009, according to Jackie Duda of 56 Laurel St., a member who is a former employee of the hospital as well as a neighbor. The project will likely take at least another year. When completed, committee members say, the memorial will take the form of a park on a quarter-acre plot on which the towering fountain will sit, restored to its former glory, surrounded by a landscaped area, benches and informational kiosks that educate visitors about key developments and history of the former hospital, which opened in 1858.*

“We want to really make it possible for people who visit the site to know that, for 140 years, this was a very important place in Northampton’s history,” Duda said. “Something important happened here. A lot of people lived and worked and died here — and they should be remembered.”

A ‘perfect’ location

Duda said when the memorial committee began imagining a memorial for the state hospital, the location was uncertain. The only thing members knew was that MassDevelopment was required to allow a memorial as part of its contract to develop the site. In the early stages, the committee worked with the assumption that it would be located “way in the back, hidden away,” Duda said.

But after changes in the design, she said, the proposed location shifted.

Officials from MassDevelopment told them, “ ‘We have a different location, but we think you’re going to like it,’ ” Duda said. “That fortuitously turned out to be where the fountain was.”

In fact, the original base of the fountain is visible at the site, though obscured by weeds. “It’s kind of really an amazing coincidence,” she said. “It couldn’t possibly be a better location because it’s already there.”

Tom Riddell, a professor emeritus at Smith, has followed the memorial project closely and teaches a class whose students will help create text and images for the park.

“It’s not necessarily an ideal spot. It’s a little small, and it’s a little bit off the beaten path, and the sight lines aren’t as good as they once were,” he said. On the other hand, he noted: “putting the fountain back in its original spot is important and symbolic.”

Duda said the base of the fountain was buried years ago in an effort to protect it from the elements, while other pieces of it were taken to the Department of Public Works for safekeeping.

Duda said while the fountain restoration committee has been working on the project since 2009, the idea to have the fountain serve as a memorial was raised in 2000.

Duda can pinpoint the year because it coincided with the weekend that artist Anna Schuleit staged a dramatic, 28-minute commemoration of former patients which drew about 1,000 people to hear the playing of J.S. Bach’s “Magnificat” in and around the institution’s former main building. According to Duda, Schuleit’s mother arrived from Germany to be at the event, and while walking around the grounds she stopped at the fountain and said, “This should be a memorial of all the tears that were shed here.”

Blumenthal believes the fountain is a perfect vehicle for a memorial because of its pivotal role at the hospital. “It was a real focal point of the place. People said, ‘I’ll meet you at the fountain,’ ” he said. “The fact that they’ve given us the exact location where it was is unbelievable.”

A ‘pocket park’

The design for the park has been created by landscape architect Martha Lyon.

Situated in the quarter-acre, landlocked parcel at the end of Olander Drive, with a towering copper beech as a backdrop, the park will feature the restored fountain (though it won’t spout water as it did in its heyday) at the center of a circular path. Kiosks will contain text and pictures by Riddell’s students.

Riddell has taught a seminar titled “The Evolution and Transformation of the Northampton State Hospital” for about a decade. To him, the subject is a “perfect example of an interdisciplinary effort to understand some local history.” It draws on social history, public policy, law, mental health, psychology and architecture and the art of memorializing.

Riddell taught the seminar from 1998 to 2005, then revived it for the last two years. He said students from recent classes will contribute to informational displays incorporated into the park. “We’re starting to build an inventory of potential information,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lyons stepped forward to volunteer her time designing the park. Her business, Martha Lyon Landscaping and Architecture LLC on Elm Street in Northampton, specializes in historic preservation projects.

“I’ve worked with historical metal sculptures of this type a lot in my practice,” she said. “I thought it would be a gift to the community.”

* CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story overstated the size of the memorial plot.

Related

Putting out a call for history: The return of fountain pieces

Thursday, December 5, 2013

NORTHAMPTON — Where did pieces of a famous fountain at the former Northampton State Hospital go? Not far, members of a memorial committee hope. “This fountain stood unprotected for many years while the state hospital was shutting down, so it appears there was a lot of pilfering going on,” said Martha Lyon, the Northampton landscape architect working pro bono to …

Daffodil planting proposed to remember NSH patients

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

rial committee are determined that the population, and the place that so deeply impacted their lives, is remembered. They’ve settled on a monument from the hospital’s past that they believe will serve as a fitting tribute to patients and staff of the one-time sprawling, bustling hospital campus: the restoration of a large cast-iron fountain. First installed in 1876, the towering …

I am very touched to learn of this project and by the vision and dedication of those on the memorial committee. I have read accounts of the ghastly conditions which existed at the Northampton State Hospital, and it is only fitting to honor the memory of those poor patients, the doctors, nurses and healthcare personnel who were dedicated to providing the best care possible, and of the family members who endured the hardship and stigma of having a relative committed to this insane asylum. My grandfather, Edwin L. Olander, a former Massachusetts State Senator for whom the Olander Cafeteria was named, was a patient at the Northampton State Hospital, where he died at the age of 50 on February 24, 1942. Phyllis Olander, my aunt and wife of Raymond Olander, was an employee who worked in the Olander Cafeteria. And, it is my understanding that Olander Drive is named for my father, Edwin L. Olander, former Mayor of Northampton and lifelong resident of Northampton. With heartfelt thanks and blessings, Holly Olander Remington Woodland Park, Colorado hremington1@gmail.com

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