So, why is there an abandoned tower in the state hospital cemetery property? There is an interesting discussion about the original purpose of the tower speculating it was: a Civil War era watching tower, Irish tower commemorating Irish immigrants held in the hospital, water tower for the hospital, etc.
My initial guess was the tower was constructed by hospital patients as a part manual labor. Agricultural fieldwork was the major mode of labor in the hospital, but stones and rocks from cleared fields gotta go. Maybe some patients were more keen to do construction work rather than agricultural one.
But why a tower? Me as an amateur daydreamer, I have to say a certain urge is imprinted in New Englander's DNA; if there are chunk rocks, they are utilized as boundary walls. After enough of them were constructed, you can decorate gates with them. Oh, don't forget! They can be a great material for your house foundation! If you are not satisfied enough, you can decorate the facade with them. What's next? Building a tower on top of a hill!
Inside of the tower: a fire place, Chinese takeout, and god knows what...
A joke aside, a tower at the Brattleboro Retreat was what I was thinking about in connection with an asylum and tower. Established in 1834 as the Vermont Asylum for the Insane, the Brattleboro Retreat in Vermont is a privately run hospital noted for its progressive approach to the treatment of mental disorder. When established, the management of the Retreat was greatly influenced by a new treatment approach called Moral treatment.
Moral treatment built its foundation in 18th century Europe. A French physician Phillipe Pinel freed his patients from shackles and dark dungeons. An English Quaker, William Tuke established York Treat in 1796 where the patients stayed in a small community in a countryside.
Massachusetts own Dorothea Dix was a strong supporter of Moral treatment. By advocating humane approach to the treatment of mental illness, she reformed many state hospitals in a nationwide scale.
According to Joseph A. Citro's Weird New England, the construction of the tower at the Brattleboro (the Retreat Tower) began in 1887. The doctors thought that the outdoor physical labor would help improving the patients mental and moral condition.
They miscalculated. Some patients were stacking stone thinking about his ultimate cure; ending his life. The records of the incidents are secret, but "a fair number of individuals" committed suicide by throwing themselves from the top of the tower, hence the unfortunate name "Bloody Tower" comes from. The gate was immediately closed off.
Newgate exercise yard by Gustave Dore, 1872 from Wikipedia
The gate to the Hillcrest Cemetery Tower was open. The ceiling, stairs, and floors --possibly all made of woods-- were collapsed, creating a well-like space where nobody would think about climbing up for the deadly scenario.
Thinking about the bloody story of the Retreat Tower on the bottom of the well, my mind began feeling like becoming one of the Dore's prisoners at Newgate Prison in Victorian London. Daily exercise circling inside of the stone enclosure might provide you enough sunlight, fresh air, and physical strength just keeping your body alive, but how about your mind? What, I don't hear you. Mind? Does it set me free from this hell hole? Moral? What is that?
GET ME OUT FROM HERE!!
Or I'm thinking about movie Ring or novel Wind-up bird chronicle
So what is the real purpose of the tower? According to the State record, the tower was built to supply drinking water for the hospital. The construction started in 1903, a wooden tank was placed on top of the tower to provide enough elevation so the water was able to be distributed to the entire campus.
The mystery seems to be solved. But there is one question that nobody answered for me: who built the tower?
RIP to all at Hillcrest Cemetery.
Locate Hillcrest cemetery@ Google Map
Hillcrest Cemetery, MACRIS details: http://mhc-macris.net/Details.aspx?MhcId=SRW.801
Grafton State Hospital Water Tower, MACRIS details: http://mhc-macris.net/Details.aspx?MhcId=SRW.906
Grafton State Hospital, Asylum Projects: http://asylumprojects.org/index.php?title=Grafton_State_Hospital
Restoring Respect, Dignity, and Honor to Grafton State Hospital Cemetery, The Grafton News: http://www.thegraftonnews.com/photos/2010/04apr/state_hospital_cemetery.htm
Tower at Hillcrest Cemetery Originally Built to Hold Water, The Grafton News: http://thegraftonnews.com/grafton_history/documents/hillcrest_tower.htm
The latest theory about the Grafton State Hospital Cemetery Tower, the Greater Grafton Blog: http://greatergrafton.com/2009/12/28/the-latest-theory-about-the-grafton-state-hospital-tower/