In 1922 the 876 acre campus that now sits barren on Route 202 in Belchertown was alive and well with hundreds of students, patients, and staff. The "Belchertown State School for the Feeble-Minded" was known for its breathtaking views of the Holyoke Range, gorgeous Bungalow and Colonial Revival style buildings, and blatant abuse of it's residents.
Ruth Sienkiewicz-Mercer, a patient of the state school, describes the conditions in her book "I Raise my Eyes to Say Yes":
His method of evaluating me consisted of looking me over during the physical exam and deciding that since I couldn't talk and apparently couldn't understand what he was saying, I must be an imbecile. [...] Since I couldn't ask him to speak up or repeat what he said, he assumed I was a moron. (Sienkewicz-Mercer p38)
Attendants on the wards were overworked, with dozens of patients in each ward, and as a result their treatment of the residents was nothing short of atrocious [...] Healthy teeth were often removed from handicapped patients, to make feeding them easier.
Those who were severely physically handicapped were left in their beds the entire day, without any form of entertainment. Patients who were unable to feed themselves were force-fed by the attendants (Sienkewicz-Mercer, p. 42), and when it was necessary to move a patient they did so roughly, causing injuries to the patient. Additionally, the facility suffered from vermin infestation.*
The dozens of lawsuits lobbed against the school led to it's eventual closing in 1992. The buildings have been decaying since then.
It's nestled in plain view from Route 202 and abuts the Belchertown Police station. Although you'd never know judging by the colorful graffiti. Despite the property's dark history the only no trespassing signs are on the buildings themselves, leaving the rest of the campus open to the public. Most driveways are even plowed. The matted snow and paw prints along the lawns suggests it's a place embraced by neighbors.