Friday, March 31, 2023

Friday Funnies

What chair ?
Seems this would be a perfect chair for an outdoors lover. It was in stock at a furniture store and camouflaged in the recliner section. (Feel free to add your own comment below.)
Nashua Center for the Arts, Main St, Nashua, NH
The big news in Nashua, NH, is the weekend grand opening of the Nashua Arts Center for the Arts. Finishing touches were being applied this week when this photo was taken.

Have a good weekend, Everyone
We're attending the grand opening celebration, Saturday

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

It's That Time

Many places have four seasons—did you know that New England has 5?

It's called Mud Season and it coincides with the spring season.

New England's 5th season is Mud Season
One day there might be several inches of snow and the next day it's sunny and 50℉. These weather and temperature swings combine to create this 5th season in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.  

Maybe you're wondering if Mud Season is a really big deal. If you live in New England, it's a way of life for several weeks as venturing out on unpaved roads by foot or auto is a slushy mess. It's worse on hiking trails, and there's a lot of those in the White Mountains of NH and the Green Mountains of VT.

A hiking trail in Mud Season: online source
Think of it like an extended thaw because that's what Mud Season isthe time between winter and spring when the combination of snow, rain, and melt produces very wet ground conditions  which leads to mud. The exact time period is weather-dependent, but it usually starts around the snowmelt in late March (now) or early April. 

What Causes It? When snow melts and spring rains start, the ground can only hold so much
water. Varying temperatures result in a slow thaw. Lower ground levels stay frozen longer and prevent water from draining, so it gets trapped at surface level.

Walking in mud: online source
Warm days the past couple of weeks have led to sloppy conditions on many trails in Mine Falls Park in Nashua, NH, where we have enjoyed hiking.
Trail use is limited in many spots, caution is advised. Whenever there's a muddy trail, it's best to find another spot to hike; walking in mud is never an enjoyable experience. 

On hiking trails, deep wide mud puddles often take up entire sections. Walking around muddy areas or walking on the edges of trails tramples vegetation, widens the trail, and causes more damage to both the trail and the environment.

Oversaturated trails are vulnerable to damage from soil compaction and erosion. Water erosion and wind carry soil away leaving rocks and roots exposed; soil compaction degrades the trail by reducing its ability to absorb water, causing more flooding. It's become such an issue that some state forest trails close for a while in Mud Season.

When does Mud Season End? Sometime in mid-May to early June when stronger sunlight starts to dry things out. Mud Season usually ends around Memorial Day, which seems like a long time. It's not an exact timeframe due to climate change. 

Some New England cars during Mud Season
If walking in Mud Season is an experience, driving in it is more so. It's been compared to driving in snow where slow and steady is best. Driving through mud results in a very dirty car at best and, at worst, the car could veer off the road. Most likely, there's as many happy car wash owners during Mud Season as during winter. 
The L.L. Bean Maine Boot is available in many styles
Mud Season is when a iconic New England fashion comes into use—the easily recognized boot which was created by Leon Leonwood (L.L.) Bean to solve the problem of soggy bootsIn 1912, Bean designed
Leon Leonwood Bean
 a boot based on the comfort and flexibility of a leather upper plus the durability of a rubber-soled work boot. The goal was to keep his feet warm and dry 
when hunting in western Maine

Setting up shop in his brother’s basement, he manufactured 100 pairs of a Maine Hunting Shoe and promoted it in a mailer sent to out-of-state sportsmen. Bean was so sure of his product that he offered a 100% satisfaction guarantee. While this was a good marketing concept, unsatisfied customers took him up on the offer and 90 pairs were returned. 

The problem was that despite Bean's innovative design, the single-line stitching tore through the rubber and separated completely from the leather upper. 

A man of his word, Bean issued refunds and borrowed money from his family to redesign the boot with a more durable rubber. It was reinforced by triple-line stitching to ensure the rubber and leather would not separate. The triple-line stitch is still a signature of the L.L.Bean Boot.

Babe Ruth letter to L.L. Bean
Over the years, Bean’s reputation for quality and customer care grew. He received letters and photos from outdoorsmen and women countrywide. One loyal customer was baseball great, Babe Ruth, who wrote his own letter of appreciation in 1934.

The Bean boot (Maine Hunting Shoe, Bean Boot or Duck Boot) is one of the most recognizable pieces of footwear in American outdoors history. The 8-inch, unlined tan boot is so popular that several years ago there was a nationwide shortage. 

In addition to the triple stitching, another feature that has never changed is the signature rubber sole. For many, this alone makes it an outdoor must-have during Mud Season when the boot does what Bean designed it to do—keeps feet dry.  

Now, after all this about Mud Season and Bean boots, you might wonder if we have a pair. The answer is No. There's an L.L. Bean outlet store in Nashua, NH, where we tried them, and didn't find them very comfortable. 

Triple stitched, rubber soled 8-inch tan Bean Boot

Thursday, March 23, 2023

NH-NJ Friends Meet Up

There's no doubt fact that we enjoy road trips. Since relocating to NH, we've taken in state getaways and to neighboring New England states, our own best company. Recently, on a return trip to North Conway, NH, we met up with long-time friends from our home state of NJ and shared good times. And, they introduced us to a popular New England form of bowling.

Friends & us at Peach's
If you ever visit this area of the White Mountains, be sure to make a breakfast or lunch stop at Peach's Restaurant, easily to recognize in a peach colored former cottage on Main St. This is a very popular eatery for local and visitors. If you get there in later morning, there's always a wait line, so we arrived right after the 8 am opening.

It's that good, especially the fruit pancakes and omelettes. Breakfast is available anytime. We checked the open hours because while Peach's opens for breakfast and lunch five days, not on Tuesday and Wednesday,

While this North Conway roadtrip wasn't a first for us or friends, Jill and Art, it was a first for meeting in NH and staying at the same accommodation, the Eastern Slope Inn. Our friends stayed in a time-share condo and we stayed at the historic inn.
Eastern Slope Inn, North Conway, NH, and it snowed during our visit
This impressive 200-room inn has a long history with several predecessors on the same site. Two were destroyed by fire. This was the same fate that felled many stick-built White Mountain hotels years ago with no fire safety features included in construction. 

In 1854, James Randall bought a boarding house on Main Street and renamed it the Randall House. It did very well until burning down in November 1902. His son, Henry Randall, who had assumed ownership after his father's 1898 death, rebuilt what became the second Hotel Randall, opening in July 1903. A 1916 addition brought the room total to 50 and 33 had private baths; features included telephones, electric lights and bells, steam heat. Centrally located, the Hotel Randall was a fashionable lodging. A 1921 expansion brought capacity to 150 guests. But, in November 1925, almost 23 years to the day, the hotel burned down again in under 3 hours

Construction on the third Hotel Randall soon followed. This one was built with fire stops in every wall, cement floors in the kitchen and basement, boilers outside the building, wiring in protective cable, and a sprinkler system. The new hotel opened in July 1926, but its success was short lived. Within three years, the economy turned as the 1929, the stock market crash led to the great Depression. Vacations were less affordable; travel changed with the arrival of the auto; guest cabins and motels replaced grand hotels. Hard-hit, the Randall family mortgaged the hotel to the hilt, basically managing it for the bank.

1950s Vintage ad (online source)
Enter North Conway native and businessman, Harvey Gibson, president of Manufacturers Trust Company in NYC. On a winter trip to the area, he saw 
that skiing and other winter sports could be a lucrative enterprise and bought the by then foreclosed Hotel Randall in 1937. 

Gibson updated the hotel for year-round use, renaming it The Eastern Slope Inn. Business thrived with snow trains bringing skiers to the area. A savy businessman, Gibson is credited with the growth of his home town as a nationally recognized ski center, success which continued after his 1950 death.

The inn fell on hard times and closed in 1975. Soon after Eastern Mountain Sports bought the property for use as a retail store and continued a ground floor restaurant. The rest of the building was unused. The business was short lived and, within a few years, the inn closed again.

In 1980, Eastern Slope Inn Associates, bought the closed resort. After extensive remodeling and added safety updates, the inn reopened in July 1881. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. 
Lobby of the Eastern Slope Inn; fireplace was kept lit
No visit to North Conway is complete without a stop at the North Conway 5 and 10 Cent Store on Main Street, which lives up to its slogan: It's Not Just A Store—It's An Experience. The Main Street store is North Conway's oldest continually operating business.
5&10 cent store, North Conway, NH, circa 1940 (online source)
Years ago, the store was the site of a general store, that was built around 1840, and continued in operation through various owners. In May 1939, it became a traditional 5&10 cent store when Sidney and Lillian Sweeney opened for business selling everything, practical and impractical. The store has been in continuous operation for over 80 years under several different owners. 
Interior views of 5&10 cent store, North Conway, NH
A walk through the store's interior shows that little has changed since the 1940s, aside from what's for sale inside. There's still the original tin ceiling, creaking maple floors and antique wooden counters displays made of glass and wood. The vintage cash register, while still there, is for display only. There's a definite atmosphere of vintage nostalgia here.

North Conway, NH, 5&10 cent store
When the North Conway store was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, it was one of only two known 5&10 stores in NH (now, the only one). Its current owners purchased the business in 1977. While, there's hardly anything for 5&10 cents in stock now, there's always something and purchase. We never leave empty-handed.

From their start in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the 5&10 cent store was where shoppers could purchase what was needed on a daily basis.

In 1880, Frank Winfield Woolworth opened the first 5&10 store in Lancaster, PA. By 1911, he ran 319 stores across the Northeast. The pricing policy was that a nickel or dime would buy anything. Most stores prospered when in the Great Depression people could afford to shop there. In the 1930s, inflation led to a top price of 20 cents. By the 1950s arrival of big discount stores, many independent dime stores closed. The 5&10 cent store basically left the American scene in 1997 when the F. W. Woolworth Company ended 118 years in the discount retail business.

Candy is no longer 1 cent
There is a lot of candy for sale here and with good reason. I read that years ago stores would keep shelves just as well stocked as (back then) penny candy sales were crucial to Woolworth’s success. 
He believed that confection, alone, would pay the store's rent. Another reason for his success was a model that still works: importing goods from foreign markets with cheap labor which in the 1880s was Europe, today it's China. 

The 5&10 cent store is gone, but its principle continues. In today's marketplace, the 5&10 cents of 1935 has the purchasing power of $1 and more, keeping hundreds of  dollar stores in operation.

Saco Valley Lanes, Fryeburg ME
Now, about that new to us sport we tried on this road trip.

Unless you're a New Englander, you may not know about candlepin bowling, which includes ourselves as natives of NJ, we only played 10-pin bowling. 

Our visiting NJ friends were very familiar with this game, despite having never lived here. As avid skiers, they visited New England for years with their now adult children and bowled at Saco Valley Lanes in Fryeburg, ME. They showed these first-timers how to play, it was challenging we found out. 

No, the game isn't played with candles, but the pins look like them, which is how it got the name. Candlepin bowling is a popular indoor sport in New England states of NH, MA, ME and also Eastern Canada.

Differences, of course, there's several between candlepin and standard 10-pin bowling: pins are tall and thin, balls are smaller, handheld without finger holds, players roll three balls per frame instead of two. Many candlepin bowlers maintain the sport is harder. (We agree.)

Candlepins, balls, electronic scoresheet
In 10-pin, bowlers throw one frame at a time, two balls per frame. In candlepin, it's two frames, (called boxes) three balls per box, scored by bowling 12 strikes: one in each box, and a strike with both bonus balls in the 10th box. Even if you knock pins over, they’re not cleared until your three-roll turn is up. Unlike in 10-pin bowling, no one has bowled a perfect 300 game; the highest sanctioned candlepin score is 245.

According to the International Candlepin Bowling Association (ICBA) website, candlepin bowling dates to 1880 and is credited to Justin White, owner of a Worcester, MA, billiards and bowling hall. Years ago, pins were inch-thick dowels, resembling candles. In the late 1960s, plastic candlepins began replacing wood candlepins. 

Nashua, NH, has a candlepin bowling center. We plan to practice for a re-match the next time our friends visit. That's because while it was a fun afternoon in Maine, we definitely need a lot more practice. 
Art, Jill, Dorothy (Beatrice) and Patrick (Grenville)
Yes, there was ❄️, both on the way to North Conway and during our stay. Our friends went skiing at nearby Cranmore Mountain and we snowshoed on the trail system near the inn. 
Snowshoeing on trails behind the Eastern Slope Inn
This was the first time we had used our snowshoes in several years, but the good thing is that we had not forgotten how — just keep walking.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Easy Peasant Bread

When Jesus was tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread, he was said to have answered that man cannot live by bread alone.

March nor'easter view from LR window
That may certainly be true. We don't disagree, but freshly baked bread is so good alone, even better with a cup of home made soup. 

Both were enjoyed here last week during a winter nor'easter. In Nashua, NH, a snow emergency was declared when up to 12 inches were expected, actual totals were less, up to 9 inches. 

We had planned to leave on a road trip to Norwich, VT, last Tuesday morning and called to reschedule to find out while snowing heavily in NH, it was raining in VT. That reminded me of the 1954 film, White Christmas when this quartet on a train ride to VT sang about snow, only to find none on their arrival. 
This latest storm came after a one just two weeks ago when we drove to North Conway, NH, for a meet-up with friends from NJ. It snowed on our way there and during our 3-day stay. We were not ready for a repeat travel event. The roads were treacherous enough then.

Alexandra Stafford bread book
Now, without further delay, here's bread making, and
 this recipe is for Peasant Bread, a hands-off, no knead bread. It was the perfect weather day for chicken soup too.

It's not the first time I've made this bread recipe found online a couple at the website, Alexandra’s Kitchen, hosted by Alexandra Stafford. Since then, I also bought her cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs, which includes the recipe and more, just as easy.

Here's how the Peasant bread recipe differs from other no knead variations: It uses oven-safe (Pyrex) bowls, there's no preheating a cast iron pan (like for some artisan bread recipes) and rise time is faster. 

Start to end it takes about 3 hours and the golden, crisp loaves look wonderful without tasting, but eating is highly recommended. This bread is delicious and moist with a buttery crust crumb. After the basic recipe is mastered, it can be applied to other recipes.

Essentials: flour, yeast, salt, sugar, water, butter, mixing bowl, two 1-qt oven-safe glass bowls 

Peasant Bread Recipe (Alexandra Stafford)
4 C unbleached all-purpose flour 
2 tsp kosher salt
2 C lukewarm water *
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp instant yeast - whisked into flour without proofing
2 TBSP butter (about) room temperature to grease baking bowls

* Lukewarm water temp is 105℉ to 115℉, one that you can comfortably put your hands in. However, adding mixing one part room temperature water and two parts boiling water is also recommended to create lukewarm water. Ms. Stafford's method: mix 1⁄2 cup of boiling water with 1-1/2 cups of cold water; this ratio of hot to cold water will be the perfect temperature. 

Peasant bread dough mixed
Whisk together flour, salt, sugar, instant yeast, add lukewarm water. Mix until flour is absorbed and there's a sticky dough ball. 

Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Set aside in a warm spot* to rise for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  (In the winter or if the bread is rising in a cool place, it could take up to 2 hours.) 

* From the recipe, how to create a slightly warm spot for bread to rise in: Turn the oven on at any temperature (like 350℉) for one minute, then turn off and let the oven preheat for 1 minute to create a slightly warm environment for the bread to rise.

Grease 2 oven-safe bowls (1-qt Pyrex or similar) generously with butter. Using two forks, punch down the dough, scraping from the sides of the bowl. As you scrape it down try to turn the dough up onto itself to loosen entirely from the sides of the bowl, and make sure it's punched down. This was challenging, but it got done.
1-quart Pyrex bowls and butter
Then, using the forks, divide the dough into two equal portions, start from the center and work out, pulling the dough apart with the forks. Scoop each half into the butter prepared bowls. 

This can be very messy — It's recommended to scoop it up fast and drop it in the bowls all at once, but this dough is very wet and slippery. Using small forks or ones with short tines can make it easier according to the recipe. Another suggestion was to butter your hand to try and separate the dough. 

Let dough rise for 20 to 30 minutes on countertop near or on top of oven do not do warm-oven trick and do not cover bowls for second rise; 20 minutes in this spot usually is enough.

Preheat oven to 425℉ before second rise is done. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 375℉ and bake 15 to 17 minutes longer. 
Baked peasant bread cooling on rack

Remove from oven and turn loaves onto cooling rack. If the bowls have been well buttered, both loaves fall out easily. If loaves look too pale and soft when turned onto the rack, return to the oven without the bowls and bake 5 minutes longer. 

If you can resist let breads cool for 10 minutes before cutting — until fully cooled 😋.
It's so good when just baked or toasted the next day for breakfast; also works great for grilled cheese sandwiches and garlic bread.

Storing Leftover Bread
Eating freshly baked bread is hard to resistant, but there were leftovers. According to Ms. Stafford, the best method to store the bread at room temperature for 3-4 days is in a ziplock bag. She said that no other option kept it better than this method. A ziplock bag won't prevent the crust from turning soft, so reheat day-old bread in a toaster for slices at breakfast. Reheat half or quarter loaves for 15 to 20 minutes in the oven at 350ºF for dinner.

To keep bread longer, slice after cooling, then transfer slices to a ziplock bag and freeze. 

Friday, March 17, 2023

Friday Funnies

Here's something green for St Patrick's Day☘️ what looks like a large green eye. It made me think of the tune When Irish Eyes are Smiling (1912).

But, of course, this is not an eye.
This image wasn't advertising an eye care facility. It was part of the logo from a building that sells medical equipment in downtown Nashua, NH.
It was the perfect sighting and certainly the right color for today's post.

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, was written by Chauncey Olcott and George Graff, Jr., music composed by Ernest Ball is a musical love letter to Ireland and its people. The song offered a sense of pride and loss for first-generation Irish-Americans and took on various waves, fitting into a collection of songs romanticizing Ireland, and the home many left behind, during the time.

You might think a song with a this title was penned by an Irishman, but it's an American song written by two of New York's most prolific professional songwriters in collaboration with a leading vaudeville performer, none of were of Irish descent.

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling was first performed in the play, The Isle O' Dreams which opened at the Grand Opera House in NY on January 27, 1913 and closed barely 3 weeks later in February.

This tune survived and has become a St. Patrick's Day standard, performed by artists like Bing Crosby and Perry Como. It has been used in many films including Irish Eyes Are Smiling (1944) a story of composer Ernest Ball and in the 1947 production, Wild Irish Rose.
Here's Bing Crosby's 1939 rendition of the song. You're welcome for the ear worm today, but (thankfully) it's only once a year.

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone
No homemade corned beef dinner for us this year
Grenville has made it, but this year wants to dine out

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Medfield Insane Asylum (MA)

This post is about a road trip to the site of a former MA insane asylum last fall. Mental illness was and continues to be a serious issue that affects many. No disrespect is intended for anyone who has suffered or knows someone dealing from any forms of this illness. In the 1950s, my maternal grandmother was hospitalized for many years in a NJ facility.

There may be no other place in the country where you can freely explore the exterior (only) of an abandoned psychiatric hospital. However, here in New England, you can walk the grounds of the shuttered former Medfield Insane Asylum, later renamed Medfield State Hospital in MA. This is a lengthy post as the history of this site was interesting and sad in so many ways.
Former Medfield Insane Asylum, 2018 aerial view (online)
The above overview shows the size of the former Medfield Insane Asylum located just outside the town of Medfield, MA. 

Medfield became a state hospital in 1914
Everyone can freely walk here, but only during daylight hours
Just don't try to enter any of the buildings. They're all boarded up and there's an onsite security patrol.

On second thought, why would you even want to try? Years of neglect and vandals have taken their toll, there's unsafe conditions. Many buildings have markings to let firefighters know the flooring is unsafe. Still, you can find many online videos of those who have trespassed.

We considered our short visit an amazing experience which led me to learn more about the long history of this now abandoned hospital.

All of the buildings display signs like: Do Not Enter, Watch Out for Cancer, and Your Risk, Not Ours. During the day, you can stroll along the roadways that wind between them, walking at your leisure right past these now vacant structures. Windows are shuttered with red-painted plywood, some steps are crumbling. There's some very unique architecture to see here.
We saw fewer than a dozen other folks during our walk around the grounds, some with small children in tow, other walking dogs. The town of Medfield has opened the site as a public space. It was a short road trip, just over an hour car ride from Nashua, NH, on a beautiful late fall day.At its height, the site encompassed almost 1,000 acres. While the farm area and some buildings are gone, the campus is large with over two dozen structures remaining, all built of matching red brick, most with unique features including porches and numerous windows as shown above.

How It Started
The former Medfield Insane Asylum was a psychiatric hospital complex that opened in 1896 as the state’s first facility for dealing with chronic mental patients. The state legislature appropriated $25,000 towards the purchase of 425 acres and $500,000 for building construction. It was authorized as a 1,000-bed hospital for the care of chronic and incurable cases of the insane.
1896 illustration of Medfield Insane Asylum (online)
By May 1896, 12 buildings were completed to accommodate 600 patients. The first 60 men and 60 women were admitted later that month, by September, there were 563 patients.

It always amazes me just how much information can be found online, such as The First Annual Report of the Medfield Insane Asylum for the year ending 1896, which covered the first 5 months of operation. It is available online from the State of Massachusetts archives and reveals a lot of information, here are some excerpts taken directly from that report: 

As the year for the institutions in Massachusetts ends with September 30, this report is neces- sarily short and includes only five months, the time elapsing since it was opened. The work of cleaning, furnishing and otherwise preparing the different buildings was begun March 1, and was pushed forward as rapidly as possible.Twelve of the cottages for patients were ready to be put in order while six others designed for the filthy and more disturbed classes were in process.

The really great work of organizing and opening a large asylum has been carried on in a manner satisfactory to the trustees and creditable to the superintendent. This work was rendered more perplexing from the fact that the whole plan of administration was a new one in this State. The daily routine of the patients transferred was entirely different from that to which they had been accustomed, many of them for years, and they found it difficult easily to accommodate themselves to the change. In addition to this, building operations have been carried on through the year. This has been an important factor as a disturbing element, adding to the natural excitement of the patients incident to their removal to a new home. The friction and discomfort arising from these causes are, however, becoming less every day.

The cottage plan adopted in the construction gives a much better opportunity for the classification of all forms of insanity than is afforded by any hospital in the State.

The expenses of the institution shall not exceed $2.80 per week for each patient. This sum can be sufficient only when the asylum has become well established, with at least two-thirds of its complement of inmates . This report covers the first five months since the asylum was opened, with the number of patients varying from 120 to 596, and the expenses for this period and for the month of March, during which the buildings were made ready for occupancy, has been $3.21 per patient. Expenses during the summer are always less than during the winter, when the item of fuel adds considerably to the expenditures.

Any success which is achieved in the management of an asylum for the insane requires, on the part of those in charge, unceasing diligence, an unlimited amount of patience and never-failing kindness in manner and speech towards the unfortunate inmates.

That first annual report also listed these annual salaries: superintendent $2,500; assistant physicians $1,500 and $900, engineer $1,000, bookkeeper $600, Treasurer $500, and matron $400. No information was listed for attendants, whose salaries were undoubtedly much less.
Women patients at Medfield: Medfield Historical Society source
Six additional buildings with wards for untidy, excited, and epileptic patients were completed in early 1897, boosting patient capacity to 1,100. By year end, Medfield 
Insane Asylum had 961 patients. Many had been transferred from other institutions and classified as old, sick, feeble, filthy in their habits. (Original terms used for patient conditions.)

Life in an Asylum
Insane asylums, also called lunatic asylums/funny farms by insensitive people, were established in the U.S. in the mid-1800s often to replace poorhouses and housed many considered unfit to live with others. Here's some of the actual physical and mental admission causes listed in the Annual Report: epilepsy, fever, fall, masturbation, heredity, ill health, menopause, nervous prostration, domestic affliction, financial troubles, jealousy, religious excitement, worry, hysteria, syphilis, sunstroke, intemperance, overwork, unknown. There were also those with actual mental health issues, schizophrenia to manic-depression (known as bi-popular disorder) and some criminals. While the report contained a column for voluntary, none were listed there. 

Some patients admitted to Medfield were never diagnosed, but placed there by families who used the asylum to house unwanted relatives. Sadly, a common practice in the 1800-1900s.

According to the Annual Report cited above: There have been discharged 13 patients; 2 were improved and 11 were not improved. Eight of these were transferred to other institutions by orders from the State Board of Lunacy and Charity. There were 24 deaths. When we consider the feeble condition of many of these patients, and that in some cases death was a " foregone conclusion" when they were admitted, and the fact that the change of habits and environment of elderly demented patients often hastens a fatal termination, it is not excessive. All those that eloped have been returned except one, who was arrested as a vagrant in a neighboring town and committed to another lunatic hospital.

It was no surprise to learn that the asylum had many fatal incidents. In 1897, a patient, seriously burned after being left unattended in a tub of hot water, later died; the attendant was discharged. In December that year, a woman escaped, despite efforts to track her in the snow, her body was found in February. In 1916, a woman in the ward for violent patients was killed by another female inmate when an attendant left the room (a New York Times article reported the murder was committed with a heavy iron polisher). In 1916, three attendants were arrested and charged with a patient's murder. One was found guilty and sentenced to 3 years, the other two were dismissed. There were reported incidents of racial discrimination as well.

Internet source
Being committed to an insane asylum was akin to being imprisoned and was often a life sentence, many inmates never had visitors. If they died without a burial location, bodies were either donated to medical schools or buried in the Vine Lake Cemetery in Medfield. Those burials stopped in 1918 when the area was hit with the influenza epidemic. It spread to 308 patients and 55 died in a month and, 
with town pressure, a state hospital cemetery was built at the height of the epidemic. (The Medfield State Hospital Cemetery, which we didn't visit, contains the remains of 841 patients and is in a field about a half mile from the hospital.)
Cottages for Men (top) and Women (bottom) - Medfield Historical Society source
The college-like campus was designed by Boston architect William Pitt Wentworth, a Vermont native. Buildings were designed around a quadrangle, that resembled a New England town common and were constructed in several styles: Greek Revival, Queen Anne, and Beaux Arts. 
Wentworth was a noted progressive architect of hospitals; this was one of his last major projects before his 1896 death at age 59. (While there are many photos of the hospital buildings, there are none of its architect, Wentworth.)
Lee Chapel, patients prayed and attended mass here. Later, a morgue was added in the basement; the chapel was later reused as a gym
The Administration Building and wards for quiet patients were at the front, with wards for the untidy, excited, and epileptic patients (again, original terms) around the perimeter. The infirmary and industrial buildings were located at the corners. The chapel, powerhouse, carpenter’s shop, laundry, kitchen, and dining facilities were placed in the center; the hospital was a self-sustaining community.
Medfield was the first state mental facility in Massachusetts to be built under the cottage plan layout. Back then, this was a very unique concept because instead of placing patients in cells, they were integrated into a small community and worked a specific job within it. (Major similar institutions followed the Kirkbridge Plan created by Dr. Thomas Kirkbridge in which patients and staff were all housed in a one large building.)
Interior living quarters - Medfield Historical Society source
 conditions were home-like with sleeping quarters on the second floor; sitting and work rooms on the ground floor. Staff worked on the wards 12 hours a day, six days a week and lived in the wards as well. At one point, the asylum had over 2,000 patients and 500-600 staff.

The psychiatric hospital eventually housed a population that was larger than Medfield, a small agricultural community. By 1900, the town's population was over 3,000, half of which were hospital patients. The facility provided employment for over 600 Medfield residents and others from surrounding towns.
Vintage Exterior Views - Medfield Historical Society source
The Medfield farms were worked on by patients and served much of the food needs for all the state hospitals in eastern Massachusetts. Silos stored hundreds of tons of corn. Milk from the dairy herds supplied milk for residents at Medfield and many surrounding state institutions. There were over 3,000 hens; the cattle herd numbered over 1,000.
Former Men's Infirmary
A farmhouse added near the barn in 1901 served as living quarters for the head farmer and his family plus 14 farm hands and 30 patients. The farm played an important role in the lives of the patients and the economy of the hospital until farming was stopped in the late 1960s. 

In 1902, an additional $80,000 was appropriated for a second ward for excited female patients, and $2,000 towards the purchase of 40 acres for the construction of additional buildings for 600 patients. A nurses residence for 75 nurses, a male attendants’ home, a hospital for tubercular patients, a ward for 100 excited male patients, and a new powerhouse were also added.
Former employe cottages

Several wood-framed cottages were built in 1906 for employees. By year end, there were 1,500 patients.

The hospital was renamed Medfield State Asylum in 1909 to reflect changes in the treatment of the mentally ill. Five years later (1914) it was changed to the current Medfield State Hospital name which allowed it to care for patients with all types of mental illness, not just chronic mental illness. It was believed the word hospital conveyed a more hopeful outcome than the word asylum

At its height, the complex numbered 58 buildings on 425 acres, with a capacity for 2,200 patients. It raised its own livestock and produce, and generated its own heat, light and power. 

During the 1930s-1940s the hospital continued to be overcrowded with the population climbing to over 2,300 patients. In 1938, electro-shock treatment began to be used for the first time at the hospital.The outbreak of WW II and men enlisting, left a significant staff shortage. Higher-functioning patients performed laundry, housekeeping, food service, grounds care, farming, and other duties. A nurses training school was discontinued in 1943. By 1945, facilities at Medfield were failing and a state report noted many improvements were needed.

How It Ended
By the 1950s, new medications changed the care of the mentally ill, allowing the discharge of more patients. Replacing long-term psychiatric hospitals with community mental health services expanded in the 1960s after Congress passed a law requiring that mental health patients in the U.S. be housed or hospitalized in the least restrictive environment. By the mid-1970s, most of Medfield's patients were moved to community-based halfway houses. 

By 2001, Medfield had just 150 inpatients, with 29 out of 54 buildings still in use. With an annual maintenance budget of under $1 million, buildings were failing, earlier some were condemned. In 2002, faced with mounting expenses and an underused campus, the state of Massachusetts announced the closing of Medfield State Hospital and shuttered all buildings.

The Aftermath
The Medfield State Hospital campus was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the State Register for local and national historical significance in architecture, health and medicine and social history in 1993. 
Architectural rendering of Lee Chapel as Medfield Arts Center (online)
In 2014, the town of Medfield purchased Medfield State Hospital from the state for more than $3 million with a goal to repurpose it for community use, a plan still in the works. 

Another online report is the 2018 Medfield State Hospital (MSH) Strategic Reuse Master Plan which includes historic rehabilitation/reuse of 28 buildings for housing, commercial space, and recreation, including the conversion of Lee Chapel to an arts center. New construction would include housing and an inn with meeting and gathering spaces.

We didn't see any evidence of work in process during our visit. Instead, it felt like walking the back lot of a film studio. It's a perfect location for any production that requires an aging complex. 

In fact, it has been used as filming locations for at least two motion pictures, notably Shutter Island and The Box, neither of which we have seenReportedly, the 2019 film, Knives Out  too. But, we recently rewatched the film and didn't recognize any of the facility in it.

In summary, our walk around the grounds of this defunct hospital campus lead me to learn about and share its very unique and unsettling history. It's unlikely that we will ever revisit the site. How much longer free public access will remain is uncertain. If you ever plan to visit, here's the address: 

Medfield State Hospital, 45 Hospital Rd, Medfield, MA
grounds open 6 am to 6 pm, public access, buildings boarded up, entry prohibited