Our History

Welcome to America’s first museum for public health. An independent 501(c)3 organization, we are housed in the historic Richard Morris building, also known as the “Old Administration Building”  of Tewksbury Hospital in Massachusetts, about nineteen miles northwest of Boston.

Main entrance to Tewksbury Almshouse, current home of the Public Health Museum

 

Tewksbury Hospital history

Tewksbury Hospital was established in 1854 as a state almshouse to care for the poor, which included a growing number of immigrants. Anne Sullivan, the famed teacher of Helen Keller, spent four years here. One of the buildings here is named in her honor.

In 1866 the almshouse began accepting the “pauper insane”, becoming the state’s first facility of this kind. The Home Training School for Nurses was established in 1894, becoming a full three-year program in 1898.

The hospital changed its name several times in its 150-year history, with facilities added for treating tuberculosis, smallpox, typhoid fever, and other infectious diseases. It continued to serve as a “last resort” for patients in need of shelter and supervised care.

  • 1900 Tewksbury State Hospital
  • 1908 Massachusetts State Infirmary
  • 1938 Tewksbury State Hospital and Infirmary

 

The historic building of the Museum of Public Health

The Museum exhibits, collections, archives, and administrative offices are housed in the Old Administration Building of Tewksbury Hospital. Built in 1894, the Queen Anne style building stands at the head of the original main entrance on East Street.

Designed by Boston Architect John A. Fox, the building was part of a major construction project to upgrade the original almshouse. It was later enlarged in 1920, with a section added in 1930.

In January, 1994 the Museum building and the Tewksbury campus were placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Named the Richard Morris Building in 2004, it honors the memory of a Tewksbury Hospital trustee of long service.

Interior view of the sun room in the female hospital, circa 1892.  At the time the state almshouse was known to be the newest and best hospital in the country.