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Insane Hospital, Boston

Image courtesy Historic New England

Print Title:

Insane Hospital


Originally the private home of wealthy merchant Joseph Barrell, it was designed and built by Charles Bulfinch in 1792. The Massachusetts General Hospital Corporation purchased the building in 1816, undertaking more than $186,000 worth of alterations before it accepted patients two years later. Renamed for prominent donor John McLean in 1826, the hospital remained an "asylum for the insane" until 1892, when it became McLean Hospital. It remains a psychiatric facility to this day.

Print Source:

This print, identified by some scholars and collectors as a probable source for the pattern featured here, has not been fully authenticated. It is included in this exhibit as a possible inspiration for the printed pattern.

Drawn and engraved by Abel Bowen for Snow's History of Boston, this version bears little similarity to Ridgway's but is commonly cited as the print source. The only other view of this structure, noted at that time under it's new name of McLean's Hospital, is from a different perspective and shows its sister institution, the Massachusetts General Hospital.

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Pattern & Print Source Comparison

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Insane Hospital, Boston
John & William Ridgway