Stone Hall at the State Hospital for the Insane

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Stone Hall at the State Hospital for the Insane


Image of Stone Hall at the State Hospital for the Insane at Howard.

In 1888, the General Assembly appropriated funds for a new almshouse to replace the frame building that had been originally built for the insane. Known now as the Center Building, the Almshouse was also designed by Stone, Carpenter and Wilson. Its name acknowledgers the prevailing trend in institutional design, as evidenced in the House of Correction and State Prison, as well: the installation of a large central administration building with office and residential facilities for the staff and public eating and worship spaces for the inmates who were segregated in wings flanking the central structure. In this case, the wings housed 150 men and 150 women and includes an additional wing, the children’s “cottage” for sixty children. Opened in 1890, the three-and a half story stone building stands as a series of long buildings running north-south and interrupted regularly by octagonal stair towers. Its handsome stone work and red-brick trim and its site behind copper beach trees on a bluff overlooking Pontiac Avenue make the Center Building one of the most visually striking structures in Rhode Island.
Taken in sum, the Minimum Security Prison, the Adult Correctional Institution, the Sockanosset School, and the Center Building, together with the two houses built for the Supervisor and Assistant Supervisor of the State Farm (Eastman and Keene Houses, built in 1870 and 1850, respectively) represent the Howard Reservation as it looked in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Although the environment is more developed today, the presence of large, stone, institutional buildings on the hill rising up from the Pawtuxet River, lining Pontiac and Reservoir Avenues, and surrounded by acres of farmland indicates both the configuration and general impact of the state institutions at Howard on the Cranston landscape.
The major improvement of the decade before the turn of the century was the appointment of Howard’s first full-time medical superintendent, Dr. George F. Keene, which signaled the introduction of professionally trained, therapy-oriented administrators at the State Farm.
Excerpt from: Historical Preservation Commission’s Statewide Historical Preservation Report P-C-1 on Cranston, 1980

See also:
Cranston: National Register of Historic Places, 1984

Report of the Committee of State Charities and Corrections Upon the State Institutions at Cranston, Made to the Senate, at its January Session, 1883

Report of the Joint Special Committee on the State Asylum for the Insane Made to the General Assembly at its January Session, A.D. 1868

Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission:  Statewide Preservation Reports, 1975 - 1982

Article Written by William F. Gleason, M.D....on a State School for Feeble-Minded Children, 1907

Report of State Commission on Public Welfare Institutions, 1943

Special Legislative Commission to Study the Howard Complex records, 1970-1972

External Related Resources:
Rhode Island Historical Society: Rhode Island State Institutions Records, 1839-1968 (bulk 1885-1944)

Missouri State Archives exhibit- Quest for a Cure: Care and Treatment in Missouri's First State Mental Hospital


Rhode Island Board of Charities and Corrections Annual Report, 1898


Rhode Island State Archives




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annual reports


Rhode Island. Board of Charities and Corrections (1789-1917), "Stone Hall at the State Hospital for the Insane," in Virtual Exhibits, Item #830, (accessed December 11, 2019).