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Hancock Place, North Dakota Developmental Center (Hancock Hall, Grafton State School for the Feeble-Minded)

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Hancock Hall, Grafton State School for the Feeble-Minded
1901, Morell and Nichols; Hancock Brothers; later additions. W. 5th St. between School and State School rds.
  • (Photograph by Steve C. Martens)
  • (Photograph by Steve C. Martens)

The site of the Grafton State School was originally purchased as land for a state penitentiary. Because the City of Bismarck had plans for a state penitentiary, it was decided to use the property as a hospital for one hundred and twenty-five “feeble minded children of teachable age.” Morell and Nichols created the campus master plan. The first and most architecturally interesting building was North A Building (Hancock Hall) designed in 1901 by Hancock Brothers. It is a classical composition with a rusticated brick base, smooth brick upper stories, and a pronounced cornice. Residents historically slept in large open wards of between four and twenty-two people; there were no private rooms. Porches were erected at the rear of each wing in 1904 so that patients who were unable to walk could be taken out into fresh air. By 1906, tuberculosis was the leading cause of death among disabled residents, and porches became a part of patient care for every dormitory built through the 1930s.

Hancock Brothers designed Midway Hall (1910), a Classical Revival building of buff-colored brick over a reinforced-concrete frame. The symmetrical building has a limestone water table, red brick quoins on the first floor, and bands of a lighter-colored red brick spanning the walls between the windows. Later campus buildings were designed by William F. Kurke (1922 refectory), Joseph Bell DeRemer (1923 North B Building, 1926 Pleasant View Hall), and Edwin W. Molander (1936 dormitory). For most of the campus’s operational life, it was organized and administered in an institutional manner. By 1982, the residents were deinstitutionalized by judicial order and dispersed to group homes throughout the state. Several of the historic campus buildings have since been repurposed. Hancock Hall was renovated in 1998 into Hancock Place, apartments for military veterans.

Writing Credits

Steve C. Martens and Ronald H. L. M. Ramsay


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Steve C. Martens and Ronald H. L. M. Ramsay, "Hancock Place, North Dakota Developmental Center (Hancock Hall, Grafton State School for the Feeble-Minded)", [Grafton, North Dakota], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of North Dakota

Buildings of North Dakota, Steve C. Martens and Ronald H. L. M. Ramsay. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015, 92-92.

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