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Adams-Nervine Asylum

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c. 1875 Administration Building; 1880 Women's Building, J. Pickering Putnam. 990–1020 Centre St.
  • Adams-Nervine Asylum (Peter Vanderwarker or Antonina Smith)

Adjacent to the Arnold Arboretum (JP4) rose a residential asylum for people with mental disorders who were not insane. J. Gardner Weld built a large house with a mansard roof and tower here in about 1874 for his mansion, its grand pretensions more suitable to an urban boulevard than a semirural setting. He also built a carriage barn with a mansard roof that survives behind the house. Weld died in 1876, shortly after the house was finished, and the estate was acquired for institutional uses. A wealthy sugar refiner named Seth Adams left a fund to establish an asylum for indigent people suffering from depression or nervous breakdown.

The Adams-Nervine Asylum trustees converted the house for administrative uses and held a competition to design a residence for women. J. Pickering Putnam, a European-trained Boston architect, won the 1880 competition and designed a first story of polychromatic stone and second story of wood with novelty siding. With its porches and elaborate architectural detailing, it was meant to resemble a private residence, a design supported by the then current mental health theory recommending for patients a homelike environment. The men's dormitory added in 1895 no longer stands, but the Colonial Revival–style director's house does.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Adams-Nervine Asylum", [Boston, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Massachusetts

Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, Keith N. Morgan, with Richard M. Candee, Naomi Miller, Roger G. Reed, and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, 267-268.

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