Aerial view of the Howard complex

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Aerial view of the Howard complex


Aerial image of the Howard complex.

In 1954, an active public-relations effort, including pamphlets detailing the overcrowding, articles in the Journal, and radio spots, resulted in passage of a bond issue. As a result, the J. Varley Female Geriatric Clinic was completed in 1956 and the Manuel F. Mathias Male Geriatrics Hospital in 1960. That same year Rhode Island’s first state-operated General Hospital was created by uniting the responsibilities of the State Infirmary and Almshouse.
In 1962, the General Hospital and State Hospital for Mental Diseases merged to become the Rhode Island Medical Center. The former became the Center General Hospital and the latter the Institute of Mental Health. In so doing, Rhode Island was the first state to create therapy units for its mentally ill, an approach pioneered at the Center General Hospital. As a result, four buildings housing elderly patients were transferred to the jurisdiction of the Cranston General Hospital in order to remove the stigma of residing in a mental hospital.
In 1967, the Medical Center was divided. The Center General Hospital was designated to serve as an infirmary for the prison and the Institute of Mental Health. Both hospitals are administered by a new Department of Mental Health, Retardation, and Hospitals. In 1977, the IMH was divided into nine units to deal with specific categories and regions of patients. The Institute is presently undergoing another philosophical re-orientation, encouraging group homes away from the environment of Howard. The extent of this change will very likely depend on federal support, but if carried out extensively, it will help to redefine the role of Howard just as previous changes in attitude have.
Excerpt from: Historical Preservation Commission’s Statewide Historical Preservation Report P-C-1 on Cranston, 1980

See also:
Cranston: National Register of Historic Places, 1984

Report of the Committee of State Charities and Corrections Upon the State Institutions at Cranston, Made to the Senate, at its January Session, 1883

Report of the Joint Special Committee on the State Asylum for the Insane Made to the General Assembly at its January Session, A.D. 1868

Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission:  Statewide Preservation Reports, 1975 - 1982

Article Written by William F. Gleason, M.D....on a State School for Feeble-Minded Children, 1907

Report of State Commission on Public Welfare Institutions, 1943

Special Legislative Commission to Study the Howard Complex records, 1970-1972

External Related Resources:
Rhode Island Historical Society: Rhode Island State Institutions Records, 1839-1968 (bulk 1885-1944)

Missouri State Archives exhibit- Quest for a Cure: Care and Treatment in Missouri's First State Mental Hospital


Accession 2009-31


Rhode Island State Archives




Copyright is in the public domain unless otherwise specified. We reserve the right to restrict reproduction of materials due to preservation concerns.





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Rhode Island. Dept. of Mental Health, Retardation, and Hospitals, "Aerial view of the Howard complex," in Virtual Exhibits, Item #822, (accessed August 24, 2019).